Before either of them had the time to react any further, the soft shuffling of footsteps sounded outside and the musicians entered, sitting down at the corners of the stage where they wouldn’t hinder the visitors from seeing what was happening on stage.
Feeling relieved, Jing He turned to look over, with his heart still beating madly. “It seems that the play is about to begin.”
Qiu Ling continued to look at him and then reached out, lightly brushing his hair. “That sure seems so.”
Jing He couldn’t help himself and glanced at him before looking back through the window. He really couldn’t understand what was going through the dragon king’s head. Was he really not afraid that somebody might see?
Naturally, that was precisely what was the case. If things went according to Qiu Ling’s will, then the whole capital city would know about them sitting this closely together. He would even make sure to rub it in the Heavenly Emperor’s face while he was at it.
Anyway, right now, nobody knew who they were. Even if he normally couldn’t do this kind of thing, today was the best opportunity. He inched closer and lightly put an arm around Jing He’s waist, pulling him into his arms. “My love, at least for today, you’re my fiance. Naturally, we should show others just how close we are.”
Jing He had already wanted to recoil from the touch but Qiu Ling’s words made him stop. He was right. They weren’t the Son of Heaven and the dragon king right now. No, they were a couple about to marry that had come from the Eastern Heavens. Naturally, they would have to act differently. If they didn’t … He really didn’t want to imagine the scene that would happen if his father found out the actual truth.
Thinking like that or rather convincing him that this was the reason for his actions, he actually leaned into Qiu Ling’s embrace, putting a hand on the arm that was holding him and resting his head on his shoulder.
He couldn’t help but close his eyes for a short moment, enjoying the warmth of the dragon king’s embrace bird. It reminded him a lot of that night on the lake when they had been sitting in that boat. Back then, he had felt just as comfortable, just as secure.
Even though he still didn’t like to admit it, there really was no way to deny that the dragon king had a certain effect on him. However shameful that was, he couldn’t help it. But at least right now, he was able to pretend that it had nothing to do with him and was just to keep up appearances and cover up the lie that he had boldly told his father.
Qiu Ling smiled when he saw Jing He’s behavior and shifted slightly to allow him to lie more comfortably before he turned to look back at the stage. He would’ve loved to do a bit more but he also knew that if he tried, he would only scare him away again.
There were times when you needed to go forward to make some progress but there were also times when you had to step back or just stand at the same place so the other person could get comfortable with how things were. That was precisely the moment he and Jing He had come to. Right now, they were already quite familiar with each other. After several years, that had just been the natural result of spending so much time with each other. He also felt that Jing He was opening up some more to him even if it was going painfully slow. Yes, right now was the time to tread carefully so he wouldn’t scare him away.
With that, the two of them just focused on what was in front of them. The actors entered with quiet steps, their gorgeous robes a beautiful sea of color in the soft glow of the lamps. All of those actors wore masks, making it easier to identify just which character they were playing.
Jing He stared in surprise when he saw the set up in front of him. One of the characters could easily be identified as the Heavenly Emperor. While another one was none other than Xing, the greatest beauty that had ever lived among the gods, the lover of their supreme ruler Tian, and also the son of the Heavenly Emperor of those days. It seemed that what they would show right now would be a play precisely about Xing and Tian.
Sure enough, what followed was the hard time that Xing was having in the capital before he met his future husband. The ridicule from his siblings, the hate from the Heavenly Empress, the disregard of his own father, all this was shown in quick succession, making Jing He’s heart hurt for this person.
He had always envied Xing for the relationship he had managed to have with Tian. But it was true that Xing’s life before that had not been a good one. Nobody could deny that. In fact, the way people had treated him had been downright cruel. The time spent searching and yearning for love … It had probably made him feel completely unloved as if he was alone in the world. But maybe that was what finally brought about the great turn in his life.
The music changed and finally, none of the other characters were shown anymore and there was only Xing himself. The lights had been dimmed and instead, there were a thousand sparkling stars above the actor’s head, the rest of the room shrouded in darkness. Xing stood there, silently looking up at those lights above his head, and even with the mask on, he seemed incredibly lonely.
It was then that a man’s figure appeared in the shadows, slowly walking toward him. Looking at him, he was somewhat nondescript. The mask he wore showed nothing. The robe he wore was simple.
This was that how Tian had appeared originally: A simple man with no background and no status, somebody who had just seen Xing and fallen in love and dared to approach him irrespective of what his station in the Nine Heavens said.
Glances were exchanged and Xing lowered his head, finally putting his hands into that of that man.
The stars faded away and in the darkness in front of their eyes, the actors changed positions, Xing and Tian finally appearing again in red robes when the lights went back on. This was the wedding they had held after the encouragement of the Heavenly Empress who found it to be in good humor to encourage a legitimate son of the Heavenly Emperor to marry a man like this who should have been completely unsuitable.
But, well, what she had thought to be another cruel act of hers made Xing seem truly happy for the first time since he had appeared on stage. Obviously, he did not care about the ridicule surrounding him. He did not mind those gazes anymore and so he just looked at his husband-to-be. And finally, the two of them fell into each other’s arms and kissed, sealing the vows they had just taken in front of everyone.
It did not take long for things to take a turn once again though. War broke out, the information brought to the Heavenly Emperor by an anxious guard. And at that time, it was Tian who stepped forward and promised to quell the battles and end this war.
Seeing that there was nothing to lose if he didn’t return but everything to gain if he could make true on that promise, the Heavenly Emperor allowed him to go. Obviously, he did not care for his son’s happiness. Whether Xing’s husband returned to his side or not, the Heavenly Emperor could not care less. As for the Heavenly Empress, she ridiculed this couple and taunted Xing until the day his husband finally returned in victory, earning the two of them the adoration of the masses and also the recognition quite a few higher-ranking gods thanks to his outstanding service.
What should have been a beautiful tale with a happy ending had originally continued further. But as it was customary for this kind of occasion, this was the ending that was shown. The music stopped and the actors bowed to the visitors before finally leaving.
Jing He could not help but sigh. It looked so beautiful when seen like this but the true extent of what had happened back then … It had once again been ignored. Well, at the very least, they had included some of the harshness that Xing had experienced in his early years. That was better than nothing.