RSH Stratagem 2: Holding a Council of Love (6)

Qiang Wei cleared his throat. “Uhm … Your Majesty, could it be that … you showed us the wrong scroll?” Don’t kid him. He had gotten a glimpse of the Son of Heaven one time when he played the messenger together with Yi Zan. It had only been a short moment but such beauty wasn’t easily forgotten.
Qiu Ling frowned and took a look at the scroll himself. The wrong scroll? So this guy thought that this one wasn’t done well enough? Mn, that could actually be. His painting skills definitely weren’t up to par to display his beloved’s beauty.
He put the scroll aside but made sure not to roll it up. After all, it was still better to look at a not so great portrait of him instead of not being able to see him at all. Ah, that damned old man from the Nine Heavens! Why couldn’t he let him and his beloved be?!

The six dragons watched with rapt attention as their king picked up another scroll. The painting inside … was even more shocking than the one from before.
The first painting had just been one that depicted the crown prince how he had appeared on the day of the banquet: His slender body wrapped in a blue robe, his hair shimmering in the lights around and his lips adorned with a slight smile.
It was … well, a beauty was a beauty and even if Qiu Ling’s skills with a brush had been worse that probably still would have shown. Considering how much effort Qiu Ling had put into this painting it wasn’t a surprise that it captured Jing He’s beauty really well.
The second picture was of a whole other caliber though. Honestly, what was with that gentle smile and that loving gaze in his eyes? And what in Heaven’s name was he holding in his hands? A white lotus? How had their dragon king managed to turn this gentle beauty into this kind of demure and loving maiden? Ah, no, maiden was still wrong … Not that it looked to be wrong …
Qiang Wei’s lips twitched. Alright. He should have guessed that his question would have some terrible result. It was probably better he just shut up. Who knew what kind of painting he’d get to see otherwise?
While Qiang Wei had already learned his lesson another one piped up. “So, let me get this right. You want us to help you woo the crown prince of the gods, Your Majesty?” Fu Min was probably the person who worried the least right now and thus still sounded quite joyful. Actually, this was quite welcome to him. Gathering gossip was what he excelled at. Wouldn’t this be really helpful to what His Majesty wanted? He didn’t think further than that.
Seeing that Fu Min was happy about getting this task Fu Heng touched his sword that he had placed down beside him. Mn, maybe this wasn’t so bad. In the worst case, he would get to fight with some gods. Wouldn’t the one he liked finally see his worth then?
Ah, he really hoped the others would find a way to get the Son of Heaven to fall in love with their king. He himself didn’t have any hope that he might be of help in that regard. He couldn’t even get the person he liked to like him back. How was he supposed to help their king with the one he liked?
Xiang Yong and An Bai exchanged a look. They had been present at the Heavenly Emperor’s birthday banquet so they had seen the way their king approached and then proposed to the Son of Heaven. After having done that he couldn’t really expect this person to fall in love with him, could he?
Unfortunately, just one look at Qiu Ling’s face was enough to know that he indeed was serious about this. His next words further proved this point.
He turned to Fu Min and frowned slightly. “Didn’t I say that just now? So speak! What should I do to make him fall in love with me?” He stared at his six subjects with an especially earnest expression but mostly got blank stares in return.
What was happening here?! These guys were supposed to help him!
Fu Min straightened up and cleared his throat. This was his chance to impress His Majesty and finally have him remember his name! One would really think that a few thousand years would be enough for that but, well … He’d have to continue working hard for it!
“In all cases I heard of, people were the most successful in wooing someone if they knew a lot about that person. So I think the most important task is to find out more about the Son of Heaven.”
Fu Heng next to him perked up. Maybe he should take notes …
Qiu Ling slowly nodded. He, too, felt that Fu Min’s suggestion sounded good. “Then that shall be the first task! So what do you know about him?”
Xiang Yong cleared his throat next. “I’ve heard some things about him. I’m just afraid that Your Majesty won’t like it.”
Qiu Ling leveled him with an angry glare. “There is nothing I wouldn’t like about him! He’s perfect all around!”
The six dragons silently took note of the fact that saying something about the crown prince that could be interpreted badly wasn’t something they should do. It was probably time to brush up their knowledge on him too and find ways to flatter him in front of their king.
Xiang Yong understood too that he had gotten himself into an unfavorable situation. He wouldn’t shy away from saying what he had to though. If he didn’t, wasn’t that just asking for another faux pas to happen? In the worst case, this might lead to the relationship between the dragons and the gods to worsen or even threaten their alliance. He couldn’t risk that.
“Your Majesty, there naturally isn’t anything wrong with His Highness the crown prince. But I’m afraid that the way you went about this until now wasn’t suitable. As far as I know, the Son of Heaven is said to be a gentle and refined person. He likes the arts and he pays a lot of attention to appearance and manners. What you did on the Heavenly Emperor’s birthday banquet … I’m afraid it doesn’t resonate with him at all.”
Qiu Ling stared at Xiang Yong, unable to respond. What did this guy mean? He had made such a beautiful, heartfelt proposal! How could that not resonate with his beloved? This was impossible!
“Even if the crown prince had been touched — which I doubt — then there was still the Heavenly Emperor next to him. As his father, he has a lot of influence on His Highness. Wooing the crown prince without his consent will be hard. Wooing him when the Heavenly Emperor actively tries to bar your way might even be impossible. After leaving a bad impression on him the first thing to do should be making amends in that regard. You have to make sure the Heavenly Emperor’s attitude toward you softens.”
Qiu Ling’s expression fell. “Hmph. That old man. He’s just jealous because Jing He likes me more!”
An Bai coughed. “Your Majesty, as Xiang Yong just said the Son of Heaven sees manners as something important. Casually calling him by his name will not raise your impression in his eyes. The correct way of addressing him would be by using his title.”
“But he told me his name himself. Why shouldn’t I use it? It’s such a beautiful name no less.” Qiu Ling looked at An Bai pitifully. He wanted to use his beloved’s name! Why wasn’t he allowed to?
An Bai didn’t know how to react. Thankfully, Qiang Wei filled in for him. His best friend’s older sister was a character nearly as troublesome as their king. So it could be said that he had already a lot of practice in this regard.
“Your Majesty, you’re looking at it the wrong way. Between calling him by his name and holding him in your arms, what would you rather do?”
Qiu Ling blinked. “Both.”
Qiang Wei coughed. See? Even Yi Zan’s sister wasn’t as troublesome! “Well, the thing is if you call him by his name now, then it will be especially difficult to ever hold him in your arms. So, wouldn’t it be better to take a step back for now and do what An Bai said? Then you’ll be able to woo him sooner and then you can call him whatever you want without anyone complaining. You’ll even be able to do so while holding him in your arms!”
Qiu Ling’s expression brightened a bit. Ah, he really liked how that sounded …
Qiang Wei felt that he should strike while the iron was hot. “Just imagine it! His slender body wrapped in your embrace, your lips nearly touching his ear and then you whisper his name, making his knees go weak and having him succumb to your charm …”
Yi Zan turned to look at his best friend. Since when did he have that kind of imagination?
Qiang Wei instantly shut up. If this got to the ears of Yi Zan’s sister, wouldn’t he have to suffer again? Anyway, His Majesty looked as if he understood already. The others could do the rest.
Xiang Yong used the opportunity to expand on his previous statement. “I want to suggest sending someone to the Nine Heavens with an apology. Tell the Heavenly Emperor you were a little brash on his birthday banquet but that you meant no harm, hand over a generous gift and maybe he’ll forget about that incident even if he doesn’t completely forgive you.”
Qiu Ling nodded. “Mn. How about some wine?”
“I … don’t think that’s a good idea. It should be something that doesn’t remind him of the incident.”
An Bai nodded. “Yes. Maybe there is something the gods want or have a use for that could take our help?” He looked at Fu Min who pursed his lips.
“Considering that the Heavenly Emperor is said to love his wife very much and dote on his son it wouldn’t be wrong to search for something they could use. Maybe we should find something the crown prince likes? That should also raise his opinion of His Majesty.”
Qiu Ling nodded eagerly. Yes! He wanted to do something that would have his beloved remember him every day!
Xiang Yong shook his head though. “The Heavenly Empress might be alright but we definitely can’t gift anything that could be related to the crown prince. The Heavenly Emperor obviously doesn’t want to marry him off soon and His Majesty’s proposal didn’t go over well. If he sends a gift meant for the crown prince in this situation while apologizing for what he did previously, then that wouldn’t sit well with the Heavenly Emperor. He might not look it but he’s as unreasonable as …” His gaze flitted toward Qiu Ling before he hurriedly turned away. “As can be.”
“That’s true.” Qiu Ling didn’t have anything in response to that. “Alright, here’s what we’ll do: You!” He pointed at Xiang Yong and An Bai. “You go and procure a gift the Heavenly Emperor can’t say anything about and bring it over. You!” He turned to Fu Min who leaned forward eagerly.
“I’m called Fu Min, Your Majesty.”
“Right. I knew that. You go and find out everything publicly available about my beloved. Write it down for me! Don’t leave any detail out even if you think it’s unimportant. I want to know everything about him!”
“Roger that!” Fu Min happily smiled. This was a task after his fancy.
Qiu Ling looked at Qiang Wei and Yi Zan without knowing what to say. Uh, it seemed there only were two tasks? He turned away and ignored them. Instead, his gaze fell on Fu Heng. Ah, this guy looked strong. Just look at the broadsword next to him! He was perfect for the secret task he had in mind!
Qiu Ling took out a scroll and handed it to Fu Heng. “You find this person.”
Fu Heng nodded and unfurled the scroll. He had never seen this person before. “Shall I bring him back here?”
“No. Just beat him up.” Qiu Ling stood up, gathered the paintings of Jing He and left.
The six dragons remaining looked at the painting in Fu Heng’s hands and wondered who the poor idiot who angered His Majesty was.

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