RSH Stratagem 13: Persist on All Fronts! (3)

An Bai might have turned around and fled but he knew that that would really look too pathetic. He wouldn’t mind if his king saw him like this but he definitely couldn’t give his Highness a bad impression. If he did, wouldn’t that reflect badly on their king? Then what about his efforts in trying to woo the crown prince? Wouldn’t it have been all for naught? That really wasn’t something he wanted to be responsible for.

Thus An Bai could only force a smile and nod at the two of them. “Greetings, Your Highness. Your Majesty. It seems I’ve come at an inopportune time. I should better take my leave now and return another day.”

Qiu Ling’s expression was a little torn. On the one hand, he was elated that this guy was actually thoughtful enough to know that he wasn’t welcome but on the other hand, he couldn’t help but resent him for actually wanting to return here. Had he still not understood that there wasn’t any place for him here? He should better leave his beloved alone!

While Qiu Ling hesitated over how to react, Jing He already made a move. “What is Scholar An Bai saying? I’m sure that Longjun is happy to see you. I’m also glad that Scholar An Bai would make the effort to come here.”

Qiu Ling glanced at his beloved with a disappointed expression. Why did his beloved treat this bastard so well? Didn’t he just come over once? Then what about him? Didn’t he come over here every day? Why wasn’t he praised for that?

But things got even worse. Jing He got up and motioned at the table. “Let me call for somebody to bring over another chair. Would you like a cup of tea?”

An Bai normally wouldn’t think much of this but just at that moment, his king’s head swiveled around to the Son of Heaven and his expression was really too pitiful. An Bai gulped and shook his head. “There’s no need for that. I really feel that it would be better to leave for now.”

Jing He didn’t know notice the gaze that was directed at him and just continued to smile at An Bai. “There’s no reason for Scholar An Bai to be so polite. Haven’t we seen each other several times already?”

Qiu Ling’s expression fell even further. Not only was this person invited in, but his beloved even wanted to pour a cup of tea for him. He had thought that he was the only man who enjoyed this kind of benefit! But now it turned out that this bastard had somehow gotten his beloved to do the same thing for him. And not just that! His beloved was even saying that they had seen each other more than once? How could that be! Had this bastard really dared to come over here several times? He really was too daring! When they got back …

Actually, why should he wait until then? He might as well challenge him to a duel right now and make sure that this guy got the idea of seducing his beloved out of his head immediately. He and his beloved were so close, nobody could get between them. If somebody tried, he’d teach them a lesson!

Before he could say anything, Jing He had already called out to his guards though. “Mu Kun, please get somebody to bring another chair for my guest.”

An affirmation sounded from outside and then steps receded. Meanwhile, Jing He went and got another cup, placing it down on the table as well. He didn’t feel that anything was wrong about this.

An Bai had come over several times. He didn’t do so as often as in the beginning anymore since there were already a lot of things about the dragons and gods they had covered in their conversations but it would still happen occasionally. And each time, Jing He would enjoy himself immensely.

His meetings with An Bai were different from the time he spent with Qiu Ling. When the dragon king was around, he felt self-conscious and had to second-guess everything that was being said and done, he had to ponder every word he wanted to say thrice to make sure he wouldn’t leave a bad impression. Even though he didn’t dislike having him around, it was exhausting. And when things went wrong like yesterday, it was even worse. It made him anxious.

This Scholar An Bai was different. He was calm and collected and very obviously not interested in him in the least. He would talk about his race in a very matter-of-fact manner, almost as if he was teaching somebody. Well, in a sense, he was doing precisely that. But with this kind of attitude, it was easy to relax. As long as he listened intently and asked questions if he didn’t understand, everything would be alright.

When An Bai asked a question of his own, it was a little more difficult but An Bai had a very good grasp on what was acceptable to ask and what subject would be taboo. Over the past two years, he had never asked even a single question that could be considered insensitive. In fact, if there was something he felt might be offensive, he might just touch upon the subject lightly and then ask for advice on how to learn about it himself. Who could he ask that kind of question? Where could he look it up?

This kind of distance made Jing He comfortable around him. It had also made him forget that his perceived familiarity with An Bai might be a problem to Qiu Ling. After all, he didn’t consider this person … a man. To him, An Bai was truly just a scholar. A person he would meet for a mutual learning experience. In fact, this person was, in a sense, a mentor that could guide him in the matters regarding Longjun so most conversations between them would have the common ground that he would one day become the dragon king’s consort. It was obvious to the two of them.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t for Qiu Ling. To him, this looked completely different so he couldn’t help but look pitifully at Jing He in return.

This time, Jing He indeed saw this expression. “Is something the matter, Longjun?” He really couldn’t understand what was going on.

Qiu Ling pursed his lips but refused to say it. Some wild man was flirting with his beloved right in front of him, taking advantage of him in a despicable way while he had to watch and hadn’t found the right opportunity to teach him a lesson yet. Of course, something was the matter with that!

Jing He was even more confused and looked at the teapot in his hand. “Would you also like another cup?” He glanced at Qiu Ling’s cup that was still almost full and felt that he had said something stupid. He hadn’t been able to think of anything else that might have caused this change of expression though.

Before he could take the words back, Qiu Ling nodded eagerly.

Jing He hesitated but then reached out and poured in some more tea for him. In fact, it couldn’t be more than just a few drops but if the dragon king felt that this was a good idea … Who was he to tell him that he was behaving strangely? He wanted to turn to An Bai’s cup and finally pour tea for him when Qiu Ling raised his own cup and drank everything in one big gulp, pushing the cup toward him again.

Jing He looked at him in a daze, not comprehending. The dragon king’s eyes seemed to sparkle but he really didn’t know what to make of that. Was he … trying to keep him from pouring a cup of tea for Scholar An Bai? But why would he do that?

Not far from them, An Bai shifted on the spot uncomfortably. He really wanted to leave. Watching this was very painful. Even the last bit of illusion that their king was an awe-inspiring sovereign full of poise and charisma was slowly crumbling, leaving nothing but a feeling of resignation.

And on the other hand, this exchange made him realize just how far these two were from becoming an actual couple. Obviously, the crown prince still didn’t understand their king. Maybe he shouldn’t have been so vague with his hints in the past? When he saw him the next time, should he be more open about it? But he felt that this person might be scared off instead of the situation becoming better. After all, he was a very proper person …

Jing He was still confused but he poured Qiu Ling another cup. When he took the teapot back, he saw Qiu Ling’s eyes follow it with a focused expression as if he wanted to judge just how much tea was left in there. It couldn’t be that he really wanted to drink all the tea until nothing was left for the scholar, right? Didn’t he realize that he’d just get new water for An Bai then? Otherwise, he would be a bad host.

Unfortunately, Qiu Ling really didn’t think of that. He was completely focused on not letting An Bai gain any advantage over him. Thus another cup of tea was downed while the stalemate in the palace of the Son of Heaven continued.

« ToC »

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