Qiu Ling stopped on one of the roofs of the alchemy division. He couldn’t see Jing Yi but he didn’t go and search for him either. Speaking of Jing He’s position he had suddenly remembered something.
It had been a few years after he met Jing He for the first time. By then, Jing He wasn’t that guarded against him anymore and maybe he had even started to view him as something like a friend. One of those days, they had been sitting in the pavilion behind Jing He’s palace and drank tea.
Qiu Ling had admired Jing He’s elegant posture, the way his eyes seemed even darker in the shade of the pavilion just like the starless night sky, and how his hair flowed down behind his shoulders. He had felt that Jing He was even more beautiful than usual.
Well, it probably couldn’t be said like that. Jing He was always beautiful but at this moment there was a special quality to his beauty. He suddenly seemed less like the Son of Heaven and more like a young god who could spend some of his leisure time with a friend.
Seeing him like that Qiu Ling hadn’t been able to hold back a question that had been bugging him for a while: “Say … about your title as the Son of Heaven, what does it actually mean?”
Jing He had looked up quizzically. “I’m afraid I don’t understand your question.”
“Well, there have been several gods who were appalled that I dared to go after their Son of Heaven and looked at me as if I was a sinner. Why that? I’m still the dragon king. Don’t tell me I’m not a suitable partner for you?”
Jing He had opened his mouth and closed it again before finally averting his gaze. It was obvious that he was appalled at the implication of Qiu Ling’s words as well. Qiu Ling hadn’t minded though. He didn’t feel like it was a problem to be this direct. He had fallen in love with this person and was set on marrying him. Why shouldn’t he be allowed to say so?
“You don’t know?”
In the end, Jing He sighed and picked up his cup of tea again, the steam somewhat blurring his features. “It’s probably because of that old story about … how that title came to be.”
“Oh? What kind of story? I’m afraid I haven’t heard of that.”
Jing He had raised his gaze to him again, surprise written in those limpid eyes. Qiu Ling had only given a smile. What was he to say? He had never heard of that because he had left the capital and had lived alone after his parents’ death. Where could he have heard such stories? He didn’t even know much about the dragons. And while he had made up for that somewhat through the years as the dragon king, the gods were still more or less a blank slate to him.
“It might not be so well-known to the other races anyway. It … has a lot to do with the gods.”
“I’d like to hear it.” He really did. Not because he was really interested in the story but much rather because he wanted Jing He to tell it. His beloved had an especially soothing voice. He couldn’t explain why but every time he heard it his heart calmed down. Whatever he had experienced in the years prior to meeting him … it wasn’t important anymore while listening to this special person.
Jing He put the cup down and lightly cleared his throat. “There isn’t much to say. But once upon a time, there was a god called Xing who was the son of the Heavenly Emperor. Back then, the gods and especially their sovereign often married more than one wife and this son had been born by just a concubine.
“His status among the children of the Heavenly Emperor was thus low but Xing was said to be of exceptional beauty which could have enabled him to find a good spouse. Unfortunately, he wasn’t favored. The Heavenly Empress hated him because quite a few important gods had taken an interest in him and she felt that he would endanger the position of her children if he was allowed to marry one of them. She did everything to prevent these marriages and indeed, in the end, Xing was still without a spouse.”
“Mn. It is.” Jing He’s gaze at that moment had been melancholic as if he himself had been the one hindered to find his other half. It had been the first time Qiu Ling actually saw such emotion on his face.
“It probably didn’t stay that way though, did it?”
“No, it didn’t. Someday, a stranger came by. He called himself Tian and showed interest in none other than Xing. Since he was merely a stranger without any title or known talent the Heavenly Empress didn’t think much of it. In fact, it is said that she even encouraged her husband to have him marry Xing since it seemed like none of the other gods would want to marry him. The Heavenly Emperor took some time since this was his son, after all, who couldn’t be married to just anyone. In the end, he accepted though.”
“So those two married. Did Xing fall in love?”
“Mn. He did. For a while, those two were quite happy. They didn’t pay attention to other people and just quietly lived together. But people wouldn’t leave them alone. Xing had never been favored and now that he was married to a stranger, a man without known talents, the gods looked down on him even more. Rumors abounded and Xing was shunned when he dared to leave the house.” Jing He made a pause and silently refilled their cups.
This story seemed to mean quite a lot to him. Qiu Ling felt the urge to reach over and take his hand. He held back at the last moment though. He didn’t want Jing He to stop telling the story.
“The Heavenly Emperor didn’t care much for him so he didn’t do anything. But Xing’s husband couldn’t watch him suffer any longer. He thought that … if he became someone the gods looked up to, then they would honor Xing alongside him. So when the war with the demons came Tian took up his weapon and followed them.”
Jing He sighed. “Tian actually made his name known through the war and for a while, it got better after he came back. The people even tried to curry favor with Xing since Tian made obvious how much he loved him. This made a lot of people jealous though.”
“So they started to go against Xing once more.” Qiu Ling shook his head. He couldn’t believe how dumb these gods had been. What did they think they could achieve like that? Wouldn’t Tian be furious and turn against them when they did something to his beloved? He knew he would if the gods were treating Jing He this way.
“Who knows what exactly happened but, in the end, Xing couldn’t take it any longer.”
Qiu Ling frowned. “He took his own life?”
Jing He shook his head. “Worse than that. If he had just died … this story might not even have been remembered. No, Xing … became a fallen god.”