RSH Stratagem 4: Choose a Heartfelt Present (3)

Jing He’s already pallid face turned the color of freshly-fallen snow and his hands trembled. Just what was this? What was it supposed to mean? Could it be the dragon king had decided he didn’t want to wait, after all? Was this him making known that if he couldn’t have his heart the way he wanted, he would just rip it out as he had done with this one?

Jing He tried to take a deep breath to stop his hands from shaking but that only made the scent of the blood drift into his nose. His knees grew weak and he almost fell to the ground, only jolting awake at the last moment. No! He couldn’t lose consciousness now. Wouldn’t that make matters worse? If he collapsed now … What would Longjun do? The dragon king had already threatened him like this. Who knew if he wouldn’t go through with it when presented with the opportunity?

First of all … First of all, he had to keep clear-headed and then he had to get help somehow. How to do that?

He forced himself to take another deep breath, ignoring the sickeningly sweet smell in the air. There were no servants in the palace right now, only two guards in front of the door that wouldn’t move if nothing happened. They would come running if he screamed for help but there was no way they would be faster than Longjun. The dragon king already stood right in front of him while the guards would have to barge in first. His life might already be lost by the time they reached him.

Then what? Should he just wait and see if somebody came over? That certainly wasn’t the best idea but it was the only one he could come up with for now. In that case, he had to get himself more time first. That would be the right thing to do anyway. Maybe he could come up with another plan in the meantime. So for now, he had to humor Longjun somehow.

Jing He gulped and tried to make his voice sound steady. “Thank you.”

Qiu Ling beamed. His beloved liked his gift! Just look how moved he was! His hands were even trembling in excitement! Ah, it had really been the right move to gift something with a cultural meaning instead of some stupid plant. Mn, at least this was something his father had apparently done right.

Jing He forced the corners of his mouth up and turned around. He didn’t want to expose his back to Longjun but he wasn’t sure he would be able to control his expression with this thing in hand. He had to put it down first and preferably so while Longjun couldn’t see his face. He forced himself to take a step forward.

Naturally, a certain dragon king excitedly followed him. What was his beloved going to do? Did he want to put his gift down at a special place where he could show it off to everyone who came by? Just imagining it made Qiu Ling’s eyes gleam.

Jing He trembled. All his muscles were tensed until it felt as if they would tear the very next moment. He really didn’t know how he should make it to the other side of the room. He closed his eyes and took another deep breath. One step after the other. Just one for now. Everything else had to come after that.

Like that he slowly made his way over to a cupboard on the other side of the room. For those who didn’t know him very well, it might even have seemed as if nothing was out of the ordinary. Jing He had always paid a lot of attention to appearances. Seeing him walk fast was almost impossible so this kind of strained walk didn’t seem too different to his normal gait. His movements only lacked their usual elegance.

Jing He halted and took a moment to try and calm down his nerves. It didn’t work too well. He might have reached the cupboard but he wasn’t the only one. He could feel Longjun standing behind him. His tall body radiated warmth but at the moment, this warmth seemed to scald Jing He. He felt that if he continued to stand so close to him, he might burn to ashes. Jing He reached down and opened the cupboard. A chest could be seen inside. It was big enough to fit the heart but he needed to take it out first.

Jing He stared at the thing in his hands. It had obviously been cleaned, the veins had been cut off, the blood wiped off as good as possible, but it still looked horrifying. He wanted to put it away but he’d need to hold it differently to do so. Then …

Qiu Ling observed him. It seemed his beloved wanted to take out this chest but couldn’t bear to let go of his gift? Ah, as a perfect lover how could he let him be stumped by such a difficult problem? He stepped forward and took the chest out for him, placing it on the cupboard and opening it for him. Then he turned to look at Jing He expectantly.

Jing He didn’t say anything. He just reached out and dropped the heart into the chest. The flesh slipped through his fingers. It was still warm. Jing He tightened his lips. He started to feel faint again even though not a drop of blood had gotten onto his hands. He hurriedly reached out and shut the chest. He took a deep breath and placed the chest back into the cupboard, before closing the door.

Ah, finally. He didn’t have to see it anymore. He carefully leaned against the cupboard to hold himself upright and turned to Qiu Ling. He wanted to look at his face so he could gauge his expression but he was afraid what he would see there. What if this was really a hidden message he wanted to use to convey that he wasn’t willing to wait? Ah, his father was right. He couldn’t carelessly accept the advances someone made on him. Had he known beforehand …

Qiu Ling couldn’t take his beloved’s silence any longer. He bent forward with a bright smile although he did remember to keep at least a bit of distance between them. “It took a bit longer than I intended but I managed to get it. It’s to tell you that I’ll get yours too.” He smiled even brighter after confessing his love while Jing He’s heart seemed to fall into an abyss.

Longer than intended? Get his heart too? Didn’t this mean … he had been right all along? Longjun really intended to rip his heart out? But he couldn’t force him to get married, could he? Or was this the way it was done in the dragon realm? Ah, why hadn’t he listened to his father and instead accepted to see this man again! He should have made clear from the beginning that this was impossible and then he should have taken some precautions for something like this to happen. Now, it was too late.

He closed his eyes and waited for the pain to come.

Qiu Ling looked at him and blinked. He was taller than Jing He and his beloved seldom raised his head so he couldn’t really tell if he had closed his eyes or was just shyly looking down. If he couldn’t be sure … he would just assume he had done everything right.

Qiu Ling beamed and wanted to grab Jing He’s hands. At the last moment, he remembered that this wasn’t the way the gods did things so he held back and just took an extra long look at Jing He. “Mn, Your Highness, then … I’ll come back tomorrow. Let’s sit down and talk then.” With that, he turned around and left Jing He’s palace.

He didn’t even see how his beloved finally collapsed and landed on the ground, clasping the cupboard next to him with his chest heaving up and down.

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