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Ning Ning

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The day King had brought home the cactus Ram had given him (which he had affectionately named Ning Ning), everything had been fine. The other plants had greeted the small prickly newcomer with the same enthusiasm as they did any newcomer, knowing that King was always made happier when expanding his already large family of florae. Plus, it was always nice to hear about the outside world. However, the positive mood changed quickly once the other plants noticed Ning Ning receiving more attention than them.

It started, in fact, the very next day after Ning Ning arrived in Kings apartment. The morning started off the same as always, with King going around and checking on all of them after he woke up. However, he seemed to spend a little more time than necessary with the cactus, though the other plants put that down to King wanting to get to know the prickly thing better. Additionally, King’s always positive energy they felt whenever he tended to them seemed to swell to never before felt highs, something that all the plants were intrigued as well as happy about. So, they let it slide, convinced it was a onetime occurrence.
Later, when King came home from school, this unfortunately turned out to be false. Foregoing his normal routine of greeting the plants by the door first, slowly making his way around the apartment and checking on them with his usual attentive demeanor, he hurried over to Ning Ning, the same feeling of affection radiating off him with the same intensity as the rays of sunlight that shone through the windows. While that did appease some of the annoyance the others felt at King’s disregard for them at that moment, it didn’t take away the feeling of jealousy that they felt taking in the scene before them. They didn’t understand why King felt a stronger connection with the tiny succulent than with them, especially considering the short time it had been under his care.
The overall feeling of it’s cohabitants weren’t lost on Ning Ning. It felt their discpleasure, jealousy and annoyance at it for getting all of King’s attention, but it didn’t understand why. From the time the quiet, intense man had handed it to King, it had felt the older man’s excitement. It had made it feel happy, knowing that he, despite its thorny exterior, could make someone so happy. Now though, it wasn’t so sure if it was so happy about it, if the other plants were going to be sad about it. Sadly though, there was little it could do.

King had noticed that, despite his best efforts, the cactus Ram had given him wasn’t doing as well as it should be. Its color had gotten paler, and something about it felt off. Additionally, the energy of his normally tranquil and calm room felt off-kilter, tenser and less calm than what he was used to. He tried to figure out what might be causing this shift; however, he couldn’t seem to come to a decisive conclusion. In the end, he put it down to the increasing workload from school and tension between him and Ram. The younger man was still a mystery to him, though he did feel he was starting to get the hang of reading him.
What confused him most about Ram wasn’t his behavior, but rather how King himself felt when he was around him. At first, it had been pure curiosity, a desire to understand the quiet boy who barley spoke and clearly had a soft spot for animals (although if he was being honest to himself, there had also clearly been some attraction to the dog-loving boy. And who could blame him, Ram was easy on the eyes). The more time spent trying to satisfy that curiosity, the more King started his feelings for the junior shift. They went from curiosity to a desire to get to know him on a deeper, more personal level. He soon found out that Ram was a deeply caring man, always looking out for his friends and those close to him – which unfortunately included his pack of dogs, who embodied the phrase “still waters run deep”.
The more King thought about Ram, the more he felt butterflies in his belly, and he got a weird giddy sensation that made him smile like an idiot and gave him the desire to squeal, as if he were a twelve year old school girl.
In short, he had fallen, hard and fast, for Ram.
And if he wasn’t mistaken, Ram reciprocated at least some of those feelings.
This was why he treasured the cactus he’d received from Ram. It reminded him of him. Hard and prickly on the outside, but surprisingly emotional on the inside. But even beyond that, it gave him hope that one day, perhaps, he would muster up the courage to tell Ram about his feelings and that he wouldn’t be met with the bitter reality of a rejection.

As days and weeks went by, the other plants grew increasingly hostile towards the little cactus that now resided in their midst, in a place of honor on King’s nightstand. King had started talking to it more and more, a dreamlike quality in his energy when he did so. The other plants had never experienced him like that, and it only made their jealousy grow larger, since it seemed impossible for them to receive the same amount of attention and love as was now being showered onto the succulent.
Of course, with all the love and care it was being given, Ning Ning was surprisingly happy, deciding to ignore all the other plants surrounding it, their negative energies being pushed aside by the sheer affection that was being thrust upon it by the engineering student. Its color, which had previously caused King to worry about it, had returned, and the plant now felt stronger and as if more vitality flowed through it than it could use.
That was now the reality in the small, overgrown apartment. A hostile standoff between Ning Ning and its predecessors, while King happily went about his day.
None of the plants expected that to change so drastically and so completely in one single evening.
About a month after King had brought Ning Ning home, the man in question returned from a long day out, clearly tired but also being driven by a clearly nervous energy. As he entered the apartment, the plants throughout the apartment recognized the second person following after King.
While Ning Ning’s predecessors recognized the man as the one who had once visited when King’s sister had come by, Ning Ning remembered him as the one who had chosen him from all the other cacti on the shelf, and had given to the man who’s love and affection had caused it to flourish.
This man’s energy was equally nervous to King’s, if not even possibly more so, and the tension that hung between them was so strong the plants felt it in every chloroplast of their many cells. The tension seemed to build, neither man wanting to release whatever it was that was making them so nervous. The florae in the room were experiencing this with bated breath, so to speak, not knowing what to expect.
Surprisingly, it seemed that King’s friend was the one who managed to get over his initial apprehension, his nervousness turning into determination. He started talking, getting closer to King until they were nearly a forearm’s length apart.
With whatever words the man – Ram, the plants had managed to figure out – was saying to King, the latter’s nerves seemed to still and the hope that seemed to reside within him seemed to grow.
Abruptly, Ram’s conviction came to an end, and he seemed unable to continue saying what he had started.
That didn’t seem to be an issue however, as King now seemed more ready than ever to take over, to let his hope out into the open and show his vulnerability to his junior. He exerted nothing but hope, conviction and most of all, love.
And, shockingly to all of King’s plants, the love he exerted had the same feeling as the love he seemed to show to Ning Ning. Which had to mean that it was connected.
Finally, after weeks of feeling slightly neglected (because even in the current situation, the plants knew they were never truly neglected by their King), the reason for King’s affection to the small, unassuming Ning Ning the cactus made sense. And it became even more clearer when King finished what he was saying to Ram and the latter’s energy turned a similar hue of love.