“My love …” Qiu Ling cooed and slid onto the seat next to Jing He, waving a bottle of wine. “How about sharing a cup with your future husband?”
Jing He gazed at the bottle and slowly raised his gaze to Qiu Ling’s eyes. “I don’t know if that is such a good idea.”
“Just one cup, my love.” Qiu Ling smiled and raised his brows.
Jing He gazed at him, his heart fluttering. How could he reject what the man he loved wanted? If it was this important to Qiu Ling … He nodded. “Alright. One cup shouldn’t be too much. It isn’t a strong wine, is it?”
A guilty expression flashed through Qiu Ling’s eyes. Uh … Considering that it hadn’t been too long that his beloved returned from his trial and that his body hadn’t aged at all for the duration of his trial … He remained the same young man not long past his coming-of-age ceremony. That kind of person shouldn’t drink any strong wine. Wasn’t that why Xiang Yong and An Bai had made him gift the Heavenly Emperor a light flower wine at his birthday banquet? Ah, but he couldn’t resist his curiosity! He still remembered how Jing Yi had been when he got drunk that one time. He really … really wanted to know just how his beloved’s immortal self would behave after having just a bit too much wine.
He cleared his throat and poured the drinks, pushing the cup into his beloved’s hand. “No, it’s … it’s not very strong. But maybe you should drink slowly to make sure it won’t be too much for you.”
Jing He nodded and smiled lightly, raising the cup to his lips. He had never touched a single sip of wine before. His father would be appalled if he knew that he did today. He couldn’t help but look back up at Qiu Ling when he thought of that. “Qiu Ling …”
“Mn?” Qiu Ling who had already taken the first sip glanced over. His beloved hadn’t drunk yet. He would have seen! So … What was it?
“If … If I can’t tolerate the wine and … behave abnormally, you would make sure that nothing happens, right?”
Qiu Ling put down his cup and reached over, covering Jing He’s free hand with his. “Of course, I will. I will always be there to protect you from all harm. Nothing will ever happen to you. You can be at ease.”
“Mn. Then my father …”
“Don’t worry. He doesn’t need to know.”
Jing He nodded but his heart still fluttered with an unknown feeling. This was just like in the night before his trial when he had allowed Qiu Ling to stay in his palace. It was … the temptation of doing something he knew was forbidden.
Jing He lowered his gaze to the wine in the cup and slowly brought it back up to his lips. The aroma wafted up into his nose, the smell making him dizzy already.
Qiu Ling watched as Jing He’s cheeks flushed red from just smelling the wine and he gulped. After this cup … would his beloved even be conscious anymore? Maybe this kind of wine was too much after all …
His doubt came too late though. Jing He tilted his head, exposing his slender neck, and a few drops of liquor ran over his lips, touched his tongue and finally reached his throat. He gulped them down and took a trembling breath before exhaling lightly.
Opposite him, Qiu Ling also gulped and licked his lips. Why … did his throat suddenly feel so dry? He picked up his own cup and downed the rest of the wine. Unfortunately, the liquid didn’t calm him down. It rather felt as if it burned its way through his body, igniting a fire everywhere it touched. Uh … Maybe this hadn’t been such a good idea.
Jing He lowered the cup that remained almost full. Even though he had followed Qiu Ling’s advice and only taken a small sip, his eyes turned misty. He put the cup on the table and raised his hand to cover his mouth, lightly licking his lips. So this was how wine tasted. He glanced across his sleeve to Qiu Ling and met with his lover’s burning gaze. He tensed but an exquisite warmth spread through his limbs and made his cheeks flush even further.
“Qiu Ling …” Jing He gulped and pressed his hand against his chest. His voice didn’t sound as usual. Maybe it was the wine or maybe the mood around them but there was something to it he couldn’t understand, much less explain.
Qiu Ling understood much better. He reached over, his fingers brushing Jing He’s sleeve before settling on his elbow, pressing gently against his arm. “How do you feel?”
“I am not sure. A little … lightheaded maybe.”
“Mn.” Qiu Ling poured himself another cup and raised it toward Jing He, his previous worry of having committed a mistake forgotten. This sight … it was much too enticing to stop now. “My love, let’s drink some more.”
Jing He nodded as if bewitched and raised his cup in response. Once again, the wine ran down his throat and the flush across his cheeks deepened. He took a shallow breath and put the cup down before he could spill the wine over his robe. His head seemed to spin and he helplessly reached out to the hand at his arm, clasping it carefully.
Qiu Ling leaned forward and grabbed Jing He’s waist. “Are you alright?”
“Ngh.” Jing He couldn’t say more than that. He felt … too hot, too dizzy, but at the same time, he felt comfortable being close to Qiu Ling. He reached out with his other hand and Qiu Ling met him halfway, taking his hand and steadying him yet again. “Qiu … Qiu Ling.”
“I’m here.” And I’m having a bad conscience again … Qiu Ling watched his beloved sway lightly and couldn’t take it any longer. He put his empty cup to the side and wanted to get up to help him back to his palace but Jing He suddenly reached over with both hands, almost making him lose balance. “Careful!” Qiu Ling caught him and ended up with Jing He in his arms. His own cheeks also flushed red.
This idea … as much as he loved being close to his beloved, this wasn’t the moment to take this further with him being drunk. Just what had gotten into him to want to make Jing He drink?!
Jing He didn’t seem to mind. He let Qiu Ling help him up and very naturally slid onto his lap instead of returning to his seat. He snuggled up against his lover’s chest and put his head onto his shoulder, making Qiu Ling freeze. Jing He’s fingers lightly trailed the seam of his robe down from the base of his neck to his belt.
Qiu Ling congratulated himself to the wise decision of choosing a high-fitting belt today that spanned his entire waist. That way —
Jing He’s fingers trailed down further, following the intricate embroidery on the belt to the lower rim.
Qiu Ling gulped. His beloved wouldn’t … Certainly not. Not Jing He …
That hand searched around and finally grabbed onto the robe again. It seemed that Jing He wasn’t trying to put his fingers anywhere else though. Instead, he tried to sit up straight again.
Ah! Could it be his beloved was slowly sobering up again? Well, he was a trueborn god now. His body should be able to handle half a cup of liquor, shouldn’t it? Qiu Ling looked up and met with Jing He’s glistening eyes. They seemed dazed and Jing He didn’t seem to know what he wanted to do.
He looked at Qiu Ling’s face, then down at his robe and finally at the table next to them. He reached over but he couldn’t reach far enough from where he was and his hand remained elegantly yet somehow awkwardly lifted in the air.
“What is it, my love?”
“We … Didn’t we want to drink?”
“Mn. But I think we drank enough for one night.”
“The cup … I promised you one cup. I didn’t drink it yet.”
“No, you did.” Qiu Ling held onto Jing He’s waist, trying to pull him back into his embrace.
“Ah.” Jing He gave a surprised sigh and his whole face flushed red. His body couldn’t help but squirm under Qiu Ling’s hands. This touch … He hurriedly leaned over to the table, picking up his cup and downing the rest of the wine with one delicate gulp. Maybe … maybe the cool liquid could calm him down. Maybe …
In his already tipsy state, the wine didn’t need long to achieve the opposite. Jing He moaned lightly and turned back to Qiu Ling, his gaze trying to focus on his face but finally being unable to do so. Still, even in this state, he was able to discern who this person was.
“Long … Longjun …”
Qiu Ling gulped. “My love, we … we’re past calling me by my title, aren’t we?” Although he couldn’t deny that this had a special type of thrill to it. He wouldn’t mind hearing it every now and then. Well, he would prefer it if that happened after they were married and had done this and that. Otherwise … he wasn’t sure if his mind could take it.
Unfortunately, Jing He wasn’t very clear on his circumstances right now. But this person was definitely the dragon king. He remembered as much. That kind of face was easy to remember even though something told him that he had previously been afraid to look at this handsome face.
He looked at it a while longer, his eyelids sinking halfway, leaving only a bit of his dark pupils and iris exposed.
Qiu Ling gulped. Oh … yes. This was … very, very dangerous. He should bring Jing He back to his palace now. He wanted to move but just then, a slender hand reached out and touched his chest, as if feeling for his heartbeat. Qiu Ling looked up and found Jing He still looking at him in the same way. “Jing He …”
“Longjun … must think badly of me.”
“How could I?”
“As a god I …” He glanced at the table, then outside of the pavilion and finally back at Qiu Ling. “It’s already in the middle of the night. Longjun … Longjun came here for business?”
“That has to be it …” Jing He didn’t wait for an answer. Memories flooded his head, images of Qiu Ling in the Nine Heavens. The way he smiled, the way his eyes sparkled in the sun, the beautiful black hair running down his back, accentuating his broad shoulders and slim waist …
Jing He reached up and covered his face halfway, leaving only those half-lidded eyes that had been driving Qiu Ling crazy anyway. Now there was a special light to them as if a veil had been lifted, exposing a frightening clarity. And yes, at this moment, Jing He felt as if he had had an epiphany. So he had had such indecent thoughts about this man for a long time.
“Ah.” He gave another surprised sigh, making Qiu Ling shudder.
“My love …” Don’t do this to me! I’m already doing my hardest to hold back! You can’t expect even more from me!
Jing He wasn’t able to think about it though. He felt deeply ashamed of himself but at the same time, he couldn’t help but notice how close the man he had longed for was. And this … this was a beautiful night …
Jing He leaned in closer and his other hand joined the first on Qiu Ling’s chest. “Longjun must be here on official business … Did you come to see my father, the Heavenly Emperor?”
“I … came to see you.”
“Ah.” Jing He nodded. “I must have invited you. This time, this place … I don’t know what evil spirit possessed me to do something so daring. But, Longjun, I long for you. To see you, to … feel you … You must think of me as indecent.”
“Ah?” Qiu Ling couldn’t think of anything. Why was his beloved saying this type of thing while sitting on his lap? And why was he leaning so close?!
“I … have never loved a man … before this …”
“Uhm … I know.” Qiu Ling gulped. Shit. Was that his voice?
“Inviting you here … it must have been for a special reason.”
“Mn. We … we wanted to drink together.”
“Then have we done that?”
“Mn. We … we did.”
“Then … what are we supposed to do now?”
“I … I think it would be good if I brought you back to your palace.”
“Ngh.” Jing He murmured an answer but it sounded only like a sigh. His breath tickled Qiu Ling’s cheek and goosebumps rose on his skin.
He had to rub his hands on his robe to get rid of the sweat before he dared to lift Jing He onto his arms and get up.
Jing He encircled Qiu Ling’s neck and put his head onto his shoulder, another sigh escaping his lips. He languidly watched as Qiu Ling carried him through the familiar garden and into his palace, taking large strides toward the bed.
Qiu Ling put him down and wanted to step back but Jing He held onto him. His breath hitched and for a moment, he considered lying down beside him or maybe … maybe … He closed his eyes and took a deep, shaky breath. Unfortunately, what he smelled was a mix of wine and his beloved’s fresh, flowery scent. He shuddered and had to force himself to open his eyes. He reached up and disentangled his beloved’s fingers, pushing those arms down.
Jing He didn’t resist. In his intoxicated state, the mere touch of Qiu Ling seemed like the fulfillment of his wishes.
Unfortunately, Qiu Ling pulled back after only a moment. He first sat up on the bed and then even got to his feet. Right now, he knew that he couldn’t stay behind. He had to leave or he couldn’t guarantee that he wouldn’t do something that couldn’t be undone. And tomorrow morning, Jing He would certainly regret.
He wanted to go but something pulled at his sleeve. He looked down and found a slender hand curled into the fabric. Qiu Ling took another deep breath and looked back. “Jing He, my love, it’s alright. You just go to sleep.”
Jing He rubbed his legs together. “Alone?”
Qiu Ling swayed on the spot. Ah … this was … too tempting.
Jing He fought himself into a sitting position and smiled. “Longjun, you have followed my invitation and come to drink with me at this time of the day. You even brought me back to my palace, putting me on the bed. Do you really want to go now?”
Qiu Ling tightened his lips and gently pulled his sleeve out of Jing He’s grip. “Let’s talk about that tomorrow, alright?”
Jing He didn’t answer but he didn’t seem like he wanted to continue keeping him back either.
Qiu Ling didn’t know whether he should be disappointed or glad. He took a last look at Jing He and turned away, walking to the door.
Before he had passed half the way, there was the rustling of clothes behind him. “Longjun!” Jing He got up from the bed and took a few unsteady steps toward the leaving figure.
“Jing He!” Qiu Ling hurried back and caught him in his arms before Jing He could fall. “Jing He, why did you get up again? You … You’re drunk. You shouldn’t —”
“Longjun.” Those slender hands once again grabbed onto his robes. “Longjun …”
Qiu Ling sighed. He picked Jing He up again, strode over to the bed and put him down. He held him down, leaned over and kissed his forehead. “Be good. We can talk about everything tomorrow morning when you’re sober again.”
“I am very clear.”
“Mn. Since that’s the case you can wait a few more hours, yes? Because I’m not quite clear right now.”
Jing He lowered his gaze and Qiu Ling got up once again and turned to leave. This time, he managed to reach the door and heaved a sigh of relief. Just when he wanted to step outside Jing He’s voice sounded behind him.
Qiu Ling looked up at the ceiling but didn’t turn around. If he did, wouldn’t the same thing happen again?
“Longjun.” Once again, fabric rustled but only a few steps could be heard before he stopped. “What is it that Longjun doesn’t like about me? Is it … is it that I’m not beautiful enough? Is it that … my personality isn’t appealing to you? Or is it that Longjun was interested before but lost his interest because of my behavior tonight? Does Longjun think … I’m a loose person?”
Qiu Ling reached out to stabilize himself on the door frame. Just what was his beloved saying there?
“Is Longjun disgusted with me?”
“Then … why does Longjun not wish to spend the night here?”
“You’re drunk …”
“I appreciate Longjun’s attempt to spare my feelings.”
Qiu Ling knew that this would be a good opportunity to leave but he couldn’t bring himself to do so. How could he leave his beloved with the impression that he didn’t like him for even a single night? This wasn’t right! “I … I didn’t attempt anything like that.”
“Then Longjun considers staying?”
Qiu Ling sighed. Could somebody tell him again just how had he come up with the idea of making his beloved drink?
“I have … already gone this far. I guess there is no way to sink any further in Longjun’s regard.”
The rustling of fabric sounded behind Qiu Ling, making him tense. That … What was Jing He doing? The answer came with the quiet rustle of something falling to the ground. Qiu Ling gulped. Jing He hadn’t worn an overcoat tonight. So if something had fallen to the ground …
Against better knowledge, he glanced over his shoulder. Jing He’s belt lay to his feet and his outer robe slowly slid to the side, uncovering the white inner robe below. Qiu Ling gulped. Today … had really been one of his worse ideas.
Jing He lowered his gaze and his fingers curled into his sleeves. “Longjun, I have … admired you for such a long time. I know a man like you won’t even consider me but … since you have come here, maybe you could at least give me this one night. I won’t expect more than that.” The outer robe slid from his shoulders and gathered in a bright wave on the ground.
Qiu Ling took a ragged breath and licked his lips. If Jing He wasn’t drunk … then maybe he could say yes. No, if Jing He wasn’t drunk, then he would have long been lying on that bed with him. Unfortunately … he had had the brilliant idea to make his beloved drunk. Giving in now would mean to take advantage of him. He didn’t want that.
“Longjun …” Jing He once again whispered his lover’s title as if he wanted to tempt him further, as if he was intent on making him unable to resist tonight.
Qiu Ling couldn’t help but turn around, his gaze wandering over Jing He’s body that was only covered by the thin inner robe. Actually … he couldn’t see much more than usual. The robe might be thin but the fabric was of high quality and couldn’t be seen through. It was just that … it clung to his body a bit more tightly than the outer robe did. His beloved’s slender frame was especially well displayed this way.
His eyes burned with desire, prompting Jing He to take a step out of the heap of fabric on the ground and toward him. “Longjun. Just … just for tonight.” He lifted his gaze to Qiu Ling’s face and reached out. The sleeve slid back, exposing a slender wrist.
Qiu Ling stared at that bit of exposed skin. He wanted to go over and wrap him in his arms. He wanted to hold him and kiss him but … What then? Tomorrow morning, Jing He would regret this. Letting him lose his first night in a drunken stupor … How would he make it up to him?
“Longjun …” Jing He’s gaze grew desperate and he took another step, still reaching out for the man he loved. “Do you need me to beg you? Is it that? Can’t you convince yourself before I lay down all of my dignity? Do I disgust you that much?”
“No.” Qiu Ling frowned.
“No? So you … you wouldn’t consider me even then?” Jing He retracted his hand and grabbed the lapel of his inner robe, lowering his head. “Longjun … must really despise me.” Tears gathered in his eyes, hidden by the shadow his hair covered his face in. Why did this man have to hate him? Why couldn’t he reciprocate his feelings? Ah, but how could a man like Longjun do so? How could he … be satisfied with somebody like him? Longjun deserved only the best. A man as perfect as he couldn’t be put off with a defective person.
Ah, there was no way his wishes could be fulfilled. A life with this man … it was impossible to achieve. But then … then he at least wanted this night. At the very least, he would have this one fond memory of being with him. Whatever happened in the future, he would be able to think back. That man’s face while he held him, the smell of his sweat, the warmth of his skin … If he had to become even more defective to experience that, he didn’t mind.
His hands tugged and the inner robe became undone and fell to the ground, exposing his naked skin. He looked up at Qiu Ling, the tears on his cheeks painfully visible. “Longjun.” He didn’t dare to say more. He only hoped this man wouldn’t be merciless and take pity on him.
Qiu Ling didn’t even have time to appreciate his beloved’s beauty. Seeing those tears … his mind went blank. He rushed over without conscious thought and wrapped him into his arms, providing Jing He with the warmth he had desired. “Jing He … My love, why do you cry?”
Jing He didn’t answer. His hands found Qiu Ling’s chest and he raised his head, his lips brushing his lover’s jaw. “Longjun …” His breath tickled Qiu Ling’s skin, making him shudder.
“Jing He.” He picked him up onto his arms and carried him back to the bed, carefully putting him down. “Wait a moment.”
Jing He sat up when Qiu Ling turned around. His tears trickled down his cheeks again. Would Longjun leave now?
But Qiu Ling just went to gather the clothes Jing He had taken off. He put them over his arm and smoothed out the fabric while trying to calm his madly beating heart. He had no idea what to do. He couldn’t sleep with Jing He. He couldn’t leave either or his beloved would be depressed. He didn’t want that.
He turned back to the bed but didn’t go over immediately. Instead, he went to put the outer robe and the belt over the folding screen standing to the side, then he carried the inner robe over. “Are you cold?”
Jing He shook his head. He wasn’t cold. On the contrary, he felt warm. Very warm. As if he was burning inside.
Qiu Ling sat down at the edge of the bed and reached out, cupping Jing He’s cheek. “You’re … beautiful. The most beautiful person I’ve ever seen. There is nothing about you that I don’t like.”
Jing He’s tears stopped flowing and he looked up at the person he admired in wonder. Could this be true? Or had he fallen asleep and was having a beautiful dream?
Qiu Ling brushed Jing He’s hair back and touched his bare shoulder. He gulped but forced the excitement gripping his body down. He was only calming him down. He wouldn’t do anything. “You … you are the person I have decided on. Don’t talk about just this night. I want to spend the rest of my life with you.”
Jing He smiled but once again, a tear trickled down his cheek. So this was indeed a dream. It figured. This was too beautiful to happen to him. But if that was the case … he might as well indulge in this dream.
He reached out and encircled Qiu Ling’s neck, his lips curling into a smile. “If that is the case, why doesn’t Longjun start with this night? I am ready for you. You just … need to take what you desire.”
Qiu Ling took a deep breath and sighed. “You can’t imagine how much I long to do just that. Unfortunately … I’m too nice for that.” Qiu Ling nodded. Ah, he was such a good guy! His beloved should be happy when he woke up tomorrow. “I think that … this type of thing should be done in a special way. Not when you’re drunk but when all your senses will be with you.
“Maybe … I’m just selfish. I want you to remember every last detail about it. I want you … to think of it every now and then and blush as if you were experiencing it again at that very moment. I want to fill all of your thoughts. I and I alone.” He leaned down and kissed Jing He’s cheek, taking away that tear and inducing the blush he had just been talking about. “For tonight … Let’s just lie down and sleep. I want to hold you in my arms. That … would make me very happy.”
Qiu Ling pulled his lover down onto the bed and gently helped him back into the inner robe before he covered him with the blanket. Only then did he take him back into his arms and kissed his forehead.
“Sleep for now. Tomorrow morning, we can talk about this again.”
Jing He nodded. It was alright. Even though he had hoped for more, he should be content to rest in this man’s arms for tonight. That was … already more than he had imagined at the beginning.