Qiu Ling didn’t answer immediately. Even if he wanted to blurt out an answer to reassure Jing Yi, he didn’t know how. He couldn’t say that he didn’t want Jing He back. After all, Jing He would remember everything after he woke up. Even though it would be a long time until then, he couldn’t risk making him miserable by then. At the same time, he couldn’t say that he wanted him back either. Because if he did, that would be the same as telling Jing Yi to go and die.
It was the same problem that had already troubled him since the day he found out what Jing Yi’s ascension would mean for Jing He. Just that now, it was even more troublesome because one of the two people was in front of him.
Jing Yi sighed when he didn’t get an answer. “It’s alright. I understand. He is … the real ‘me’. It’s understandable that you’d rather have him back.”
Qiu Ling pressed his eyes shut and shook his head. “That’s not it.”
Jing Yi looked at his expression and forced himself to smile. “It’s really alright, Qiu Ling. You don’t have to explain. I … I can take it.”
Qiu Ling once again shook his head and then opened his eyes to look into the distance. “That’s really not it. I … I don’t know myself. That’s the problem. I don’t know what to do.”
Jing Yi also turned away. What was he supposed to say to this? “Is there anything I can do?” Like making you fall in love with only me? He smiled self-deprecatingly at that thought. He had made so much trouble for Qiu Ling since the day they had met. What gave him the right to try and monopolize his feelings now? Especially … since the person he wanted to win against was himself. Ah, this situation was a mess.
Qiu Ling sighed. “No, you … You shouldn’t do anything. This is your life. Regardless of what happens to Jing He, you should live it the way you want it to be.”
“And you’re alright with that? You wouldn’t regret it? I mean … I’m not just a normal human anymore. I’ve cultivated to the third stage so I … won’t age and die. That essentially means that Jing He …”
Qiu Ling sighed again. “I know. But what do you want me to do? I couldn’t kill you. I couldn’t watch how anybody else does either. I just …” He took a shaky breath. “You might not believe me but I love you. More than anything else.”
“Because of Jing He?”
Qiu Ling looked over and his gaze flickered. “I don’t know how to answer that. Without Jing He … there wouldn’t be you. And even if he had reincarnated before I met him … I almost never went to the human realm. It’s unlikely we would have even met if not for me falling in love with him.”
“So I guess without him there wouldn’t be us?”
“Yes. Also …” Qiu Ling’s expression turned even more complex. “As much as I want to keep these things separate, the two of you are the same person to me. Dragons … are different in that regard. We are bound to the other person’s soul. Jing He … he already carried a part of my soul and when his soul descended for the trial, that part of my soul was also taken with it. So you as well …”
“You mean I never was anybody but Jing He in your mind.”
Qiu Ling looked over and finally reached out, taking Jing Yi’s hand. “You definitely were in the beginning and I will never be able to see you as two completely different people but I did realize along the way that you aren’t Jing He. A reincarnation, even though it carries the same soul, isn’t the same person anymore. You’ve … experienced different things from Jing He. You’ve grown up in a different environment with different people around you. There is … no comparing you.”
Jing Yi bit his lower lip. Thinking back to the image of Jing He in Qiu Ling’s inner self and what he had seen of the Nine Heavens in his own memories, they probably couldn’t be compared indeed. “He … must have been very elegant, right?”
Qiu Ling’s gaze unwittingly softened and he nodded.
Jing Yi looked at his own hand in Qiu Ling’s and wondered how he compared to that. There was nothing elegant about him, was there? And compared with Jing He’s appearance … “He was also much more beautiful than me, wasn’t he?”
Qiu Ling looked up, his gaze roaming over Jing Yi’s face. “If we’re talking elegance, then yes. Jing He was the embodiment of elegance. It was ingrained in his bones. But that was to be expected. He was … the highest royalty of the Nine Heavens, the one supposed to sit on the throne one day. He was prepared to take on that mantle any single day and he always lived with that possibility at the back of his head. He would never allow himself to be anything but perfect in the eyes of others.”
Jing Yi nodded. He had gleaned as much from Jing He’s memory.
“As for beauty …” Qiu Ling sighed. “It’s hard to compare. You’re … a different kind of beautiful.”
Jing Yi chuckled. “You’re charming. I can see why he fell for you. It’s puzzling he needed so long though.”
Qiu Ling smiled wryly. “It puzzled me for a long time as well. But I guess it was also because of his circumstances. As somebody who wanted to be perfect in everybody’s eyes, he had trouble imagining to marry a dragon. At the same time, marrying the king of a race was strangely fitting. And then there were his parents. His mother agreed that I would be an option while his father …”
“He didn’t like you. Yes, you mentioned that.”
Qiu Ling nodded. “There were things I had going for me and things that spoke against me as his husband. I guess he had a hard time making up his mind.”
Jing Yi looked away, his eyes burning with resentment, and he couldn’t help but take a jab at his past self. “I wouldn’t have thought loving somebody was about making up your mind. Shouldn’t he have just felt it if he loved you? What was he thinking so much for?”
Qiu Ling looked at Jing Yi and smiled. “Didn’t you also have your reservations when you thought there was a prior agreement from your past life? It’s never as easy as it looks from outside. I can … also only suspect some things. He would never have uttered his thoughts that openly.”