An Bai was indeed shocked by what he had just found out. On the other hand, he also felt a bit happy. “Thank you for trusting me with this information.”
Qiu Ling gave a faint smile. “Well, you figured out this thing and just kept it to yourself apart from going to talk about this with Xiang Yong. If I don’t trust you with this, who am I going to trust?”
An Bai lowered his head but it was still obvious that his smile widened.
Qiu Ling looked at him and slightly tilted his head. “Is that really worth so much?”
An Bai looked back up, his blue eyes shimmering in the light. “It probably doesn’t seem like much in Your Majesty’s eyes. To me though … this is a lot, yes. I don’t know if you are aware of this but, to be honest, I’ve always felt like among your advisers, I am probably the most useless to you. The one you would trust the least.”
Qiu Ling’s expression turned solemn when he heard so. “Why that?” Honestly, he had never fully trusted any of his advisers but it wasn’t like he had singled any of them out. At the very least, that was what he believed.
An Bai gave a hum, a little unsure of where to begin. “Well, I think there are several layers to this. For one, apart from Xiang Yong and me, the other advisers all grew up in the capital city. Some of them already did so when you finally acceded to the throne while others were born when you were already reining. In any case, they were close. So there was always this feeling that they probably knew Your Majesty better than we did.
“On the other hand, I also felt that there was a stronger connection because of that. That their reasons were more valid.
“Fu Heng, for example, always admired you personally as a warrior. And that was why he wanted to follow you. And Fu Min … I know that both he and Fu Heng were children when you became king. I remember that he mentioned once that he actually saw that fight in which you killed the late demon king. So I guess he will have admired you or maybe even idolized you since then.
“On the other hand, while Yi Zan and Qiang Wei joined you later, their connection to the palace is closer. Yi Zan’s family has been one of soldiers and even palace guards for several generations so he wanted to follow in his forefathers’ footsteps. It doesn’t seem strange. Qiang Wei … I actually don’t quite know about him but from what I gathered, he was also very closely related to the dragon king’s palace from before becoming your adviser. I guess it might also be related to his family.
“Then there is Xiang Yong. Just like me, he didn’t grow up here. But I know that you once saved his life when there were battles in the border region where he lived. He wanted to repay you for that, to be at your side as closely as a could, and help you with what you were doing.
“Me, on the other hand, I don’t have that kind of personal history with you. I am from the eastern region, a small town close to Mu Shan. Your Majesty might have never been there. And I never had the chance to actually get to know you. The dragon king’s palace, the capital city … all of that was far away when I grew up.” He looked a little lost when he fell quiet again.
“When did you decide to come here then?” Actually, Qiu Ling felt guilty. The things that An Bai mentioned … he actually didn’t know about them. He didn’t know where An Bai came from, he couldn’t remember having saved Xiang Yong. He also didn’t know too much about the others although he could probably infer a bit about Yi Zan’s and Fu Heng’s circumstances just from the bit that he could see. After all, Yi Zan’s sister and brother-in-law were also living in the palace and that Fu Heng was interested in fighting was obvious at a glance.
But he really didn’t know anything about the others. And that just went to show how shallow the connection between them actually was. These were his advisers, the men he should trust the most. But in the end, despite all these years together, he just couldn’t. And that was … very sad.
An Bai was lost in thought for a moment when he heard his king’s question. “Well, why did I? I don’t even know how to explain this myself. If I am honest, I did not come here to become your adviser. I was always enamored with my studies. And I knew that the capital city would be the best place to further them. That was what I originally came here for. And finally, that was the reason why I entered the palace because I figured that this was the place that would allow me to do the most.
“Becoming your adviser … I honestly don’t know if it wasn’t just a fluke. I don’t know why Your Majesty chose me back then. I actually was a little surprised. But it was something that I was willing to do when you asked me to. Because I felt that this was a worthy cause to use my knowledge for. And I did feel that you were a good king. I read up on your reign after all. Even though I didn’t know much about you as a person, I could see that you tried your best as the king. I do think that was enough for me to decide that I wanted to follow you.”
Qiu Ling nodded slowly while his thoughts traveled back. In fact, this didn’t seem to have been that long ago. Among those six followers of his, An Bai seemed to be the one who joined him the latest. As for the reason this had happened … it seemed that at the end of the day, he had once again been a bit difficult.