Jing He slowly combed through his hair, making sure every single strand was in place. The dragon king Qiu Ling had just come by yesterday but since he had visited the day before yesterday and the day before that day, too, it wouldn’t be that unexpected for him to appear in front of his door once again. Even if he didn’t come by, it was still better to be prepared. He didn’t want him to think less of him just because he had been careless.
Reality showed that preparing himself had been the right choice. The usual uproar of Qiu Ling’s fight with the Heavenly Guards could be heard. People were cussing, swords whooshing through the air without ever hitting anything and then the dragon king laughed loudly.
Jing He played deaf once more and listened for the familiar steps. Indeed. Not a second later someone hurried inside. He had no regard for the screen behind the door or any customs whatsoever and just ran over, wrapping Jing He into a warm embrace and kissing his cheek.
“Surprise! I came to visit you!”
Jing He smiled gently. “I never would have expected that.” He turned around and was subsequently handed … a pumpkin? With a furry thing on top?
Jing He blinked and then looked up at his lover. “This is …?”
“Mn.” Qiu Ling coughed, obviously trying very hard not to smile to uphold his valiant image he himself had long destroyed. “It’s like this, I heard a while back that in one of the lesser planets, there is a strange ritual the humans perform on this day of the year. They take such an orange thing and cut a face into it.”
Jing He waited for more but his lover had already stopped talking. “Oh, so, they prepare a pumpkin. And then?”
Qiu Ling was pulled out of his thoughts. He took the pumpkin and put it down on the table before gently grabbing Jing He’s hands. “Well, you see, to cut the face into it you’ll need to hollow it out. But you can eat the pulp inside so it’s advisable to make something out of it. So, that should be eaten that day, too.”
“I see. So …”
“So, I thought it sounds really nice. Why don’t we have a try?” Qiu Ling’s eyes glimmered in expectation.
He really, really wanted to have a try! They hadn’t done this before so it was expected to mess up a few times. If he did it right, they’d be able to spend the whole day with each other! Who would be able to say anything against that?
Jing He looked at the pumpkin and nodded. “Alright. Then let’s do that. Just … what do we need the cat for?”
Qiu Ling’s face reddened. “Uh, that …” He picked the black kitten up by the scruff of its neck and looked into its eyes. “I don’t know why but having a black cat around seems to be important on that day. Here, you have it.” He handed it over to Jing He and watched how the kitten burrowed into his lover’s arms.
Jing He smiled and gently tickled the cat under the chin. It started purring immediately, obviously very content in Jing He’s arms.
Qiu Ling bit his lower lip. Argh! Why couldn’t he turn into a cute, fluffy ball like this?! Wouldn’t his beloved pet him like this then?
Jing He looked up at his lover and wondered if it would be crossing a line if he reached out and patted his head. Right now, Qiu Ling really looked as if he’d like that. He decided against it at the end, though. How could he just pat the dragon king’s head?
Qiu Ling stared at the furry thing in Jing He’s arms and deeply regretted bringing it over. Hmph. This was his day with his beloved. He wouldn’t let anyone usurp his position! Even if it was a cat!
He once again grabbed it by the scruff of its neck and walked to the door. “Its natural habitat is outside. We should let it play by itself in the garden. That should be close enough.” He put it down outside and shoved it toward the flowerbed. Then, he walked back to Jing He and took him into his arms.
His hands slipped into Jing He’s hair and combed through those silky strands in satisfaction. He had no idea what those mortals were celebrating today but he felt like celebrating love. He bent down and cupped Jing He’s cheek. “My love …”
Before Qiu Ling’s pursed lips could touch those of his lover the face in front of him had been turned away. “So how do we cut a face into this?”
Qiu Ling sighed but pulled his beloved to the table anyway. He insisted on pulling him onto his lap though. With one arm around Jing He’s waist and the pumpkin in front of them on the table, he felt like this strange human ritual wasn’t bad at all.
Jing He blushed. This wasn’t good! With the kind of uproar Qiu Ling had caused with his arrival, his father was probably on his way here. He couldn’t let him see them! He really wanted to stand up and go sit on the other side but Qiu Ling seemed so happy that he didn’t dare to do so. Instead, he accepted his fate and stayed where he was.
Qiu Ling took out a dagger. “The first step is to cut off the upper part so it can be hollowed out.”
“Oh? Let me give it a try!” Jing He took the dagger and turned to the pumpkin but before the blade could even touch it the dagger was taken away again. Jing He turned around to Qiu Ling with an incredulous gaze. What was the meaning of this?
Qiu Ling coughed and tried to look serious. “My love, seeing your beautiful hands and the sharp edge of the knife in such close proximity, my heart just can’t be at ease. Please let me handle this dangerous step in your stead.”
Jing He actually wanted to try it out but being faced with Qiu Ling’s earnest gaze and those heartfelt words he didn’t have the heart to insist. Thus, he shrunk back into Qiu Ling’s arms and nodded. “Then I’ll leave it to you.”
“Mn. You don’t have to worry!”