RSH Stratagem 13: Persist on All Fronts! (1)

When Jing He returned to his palace in the evening, he was in a bit of a daze. Two years. It had already been two years since he met Longjun for the first time. In these two years, Longjun’s enthusiasm for pursuing him hadn’t waned in the least. Today especially …

Jing He nodded at the two guards at the door and then went inside, trying to find some tranquility from the familiar place. Unfortunately, nothing of the like happened. On the contrary, he couldn’t help but remember the many days they had spent here, quietly drinking tea or that afternoon in his study where they had painted together, Longjun’s calm gaze directed at him. Today, he had looked at him with very much the same look.

Jing He went to sit in his study, blankly looking at the stationery on his desk. In the beginning, he had believed that the dragon king would soon give up and forget about him, developing affections for somebody else. He felt that there was no way that Longjun could have fallen so deeply for him after just a glance so he had only treated him with the same superficial politeness that he used for everybody else. But now …

Two years weren’t short. They weren’t long for either the gods or the dragons as well but it was still unexpected that Longjun’s fervor hadn’t cooled off by now. Maybe he had misjudged this man? Maybe his feelings were deeper than he had originally assumed?

Jing He reached out and pulled over a blank paper scroll. He brushed it with his fingers, making it lie flat and then fixed it on the table before picking up a brush. He tried to ignore these random thoughts and instead focused on the painting.

As for what he painted … It was the very same person facing him with his back. The black hair reached down to his hips while his broad shoulders and straight posture gave him a heroic feeling. Handsome and with undeniable charisma. This was how Tian, the supreme ruler of all realms, was described in the stories.

Who knew how many people had fallen for him when he first appeared in the Nine Heavens without revealing his true identity? But not many had stayed interested because this place that teemed with gods of high positions would pay way too much attention to a person’s status. Only Xing didn’t care about it. Only he could love this man wholeheartedly, not rejecting when he was proposed to and letting him into his life for eternity without hesitation.

Jing He sighed and put down the brush, looking at that figure. The one he painted was supposed to be that unreachable person, the kind of man he had longed to meet since the day his heart felt the first stirrings of longing for a romantic relationship. He knew his partner needed to have the appropriate status for them to marry. After all, he was the Heavenly Emperor’s only son. But more than that, he longed for a man that would be able to love him as wholeheartedly as Tian had loved Xing.

Yes, he might not be like Xing, he might not deserve such affections, but he still wanted to experience this feeling of being loved even when he reached the lowest point of his life.

Now, after receiving a man’s affection for a full two years, he couldn’t help himself but question whether this person could be the one destined for him. If he waited another year or another two years, would Longjun still chase after him with as much fervency? Would his gaze still be as burning, his touch still be as gentle, his words still be as sweet?

With his hand lightly trembling, Jing He reached out again, adding another figure next to the first one. He didn’t think of Tian and Xing any longer. That figure that would normally show his ancestor, was now much more reminiscent of himself and a few additional strokes to that first one that he had already pinned onto the paper made it look much more like a certain uninvited guest.

Jing He looked at the painting and closed his eyes. Imagining the future … If they really got married, then there would be troubles. But if this man loved him enough, they would be able to overcome it.

Maybe they would need to live separately — Longjun in the dragon realm to govern his people, while he continued to stay in the Nine Heavens, waiting for his husband to return to him. He would be sitting in this very same room, longing for him to step through the door and then …

After two years of interacting with him, he could imagine the scene: Longjun would come inside, not bothering about the guards at the door or what anybody else had to say. Well, why would he? In this far away future, they would already be a married couple. He was allowed to be there. More than that, he was expected to be there.

Still, Longjun would step in through the door leading into the palace from the garden, his gaze fixed on him from the moment he entered. He would rush toward him, his black hair and robes flying, pulling him into his arms with an overbearing motion, securely wrapping him in his embrace. He would probably say a few sweet words, telling him that he had returned and that he had missed him, that he wasn’t willing to go even a moment longer without him.

These kinds of words … Jing He could all-too-well imagine how weak they would make him. Even now, this sweetness sometimes seemed like it was too much, making his heart flutter lightly. In the future, he would likely lose all reason at this moment, melting into his husband’s arms, his eyes faintly expressing how much he had longed for him as well.

He could vividly imagine Longjun’s satisfied smile when he leaned down and …

Jing He’s cheeks flushed red and his hands trembled, the black ink dripping onto the paper scroll and obscuring the two figures standing side by side. His eyes fluttered open and he looked at it in a daze before averting his face.

What was he thinking?

He put away the brush and picked up the scroll of paper, walking over to the brazier to burn it. This kind of thing … He held the paper above the flames but couldn’t bring himself to lower it. His heart felt unwilling.

He wanted this relationship but he didn’t dare to say it, didn’t dare to do anything to show this man that he wasn’t indifferent to him. Because if he did … Who knew what the future would really bring? His thoughts were beautiful but it might as well turn out completely different. Who knew if the man that was so caring toward him while wooing him would still be like this in the future? Maybe after obtaining what he wanted, his feelings would cool after all. What then?

Jing He didn’t mind pretending in front of others. He could smile the whole day without feeling it without straining himself. But he didn’t want to have to pretend for the rest of his life to be in love. How exhausting would it be? If this man couldn’t love him … How could he love him?

Jing He wanted to take the scroll back but the embers in the brazier cracked and a few sparks flew up, igniting it after all.

Jing He sighed, letting go of the paper and watching it burn. Maybe this was a sign. Maybe this was Heaven telling him that he was indulging in flights of fancy and that this man he had thought about while painting was not for him. Maybe what he was thinking about wouldn’t matter in the near future because Longjun met somebody else in just a few days. After all, he had fallen in love with him at a glance. How difficult could it be for him to shift his affections to somebody else?

Jing He sighed again, longer this time and then turned away. He went to change out of his clothes and then lay down. Sleeping for a few hours … At least he would be able to take his mind off things.

He turned to the wall and closed his eyes. Unfortunately, he couldn’t help but remember the afternoon. They had sat so closely … He had been able to see the threads of the embroidery on Qiu Ling’s robe and his warm voice had seemed to wrap him up. In fact, the longer he thought of it, the sweeter it felt. The way the dragon king had picked up that tray and offered him food … Ah, he had also been very open about everything, satisfying his curiosity without question. He wouldn’t have expected that.

Jing He turned onto his back again, looking up at the ceiling. Longjun had been slightly strange when he asked about the dragons’ other form. Maybe that was a taboo? He should ask Scholar An Bai about it discreetly. He didn’t want to leave Longjun with a bad impression. If that man thought of him differently …

A light sigh escaped Jing He’s lips and he closed his eyes again, once again settling down to sleep. Whatever he did, he couldn’t escape the bits and pieces of memories that suddenly floated to the top of his mind, startling him awake again and again.

Jing He finally sat up, touching his chest. Was his heart beating a little faster than usual? Could it be he …

He looked through the darkness but nobody was there. He wondered if he should get up and maybe read something to calm his mind but he probably wouldn’t be able to concentrate on that. In the end, he could only lie back down, quietly asking him the very same question once again: It couldn’t be that he had started to really fall for this man, could it?

« ToC »

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