Qiu Ling looked at the old man, his eyes glazing over. One person in the story had climbed from the lowest realm to the highest? Honestly, he had no idea what that was supposed to mean. Anyway, it sounded as if the story was pretty important.
Jing He’s gaze became thoughtful though. “From the lowest to the highest of all realms?” He couldn’t help but mumble to himself, intrigued by that question. As somebody who rarely left his own palace, the only thing he would do regularly were things that could be done in the security of his own walls. Naturally, he knew quite a few of the stories of their race by heart.
“The lowest realm should be the realm of the mortals. The highest realm could be the Nine Heavens then. After all, humans can cultivate and become a deity, thus ascending to our realm.” He said so but then furrowed his brows behind the mask. “But that isn’t quite right. You said that the person climbed, didn’t you? Not ascended.”
That should definitely be part of the hint. And thinking of it like this … “Realms that one would need to climb to reach … I think it is said that the High Heavens are separated from our Nine Heavens by a tall mountain. That place is enveloped by fierce spiritual energy, in fact, it is supposed to be so strong, that not even a trueborn god would be able to use their abilities to fly up there. So one would indeed need to climb to get there.”
The old man raised his bushy brows at him, quite surprised. This was actually a lot more thorough than what the others had been able to come up with. They had already given up when they just heard the sentence or if anything, then the most at most, they would have guessed that it was indeed an ascended deity. Nobody had guessed that it was the High Heavens. “Then do you know which story it is?”
Jing He continued to ponder. There weren’t many stories of people that had managed to get to the High Heavens. For the most part, nobody would actually dare to try. After all, that realm was where Tian, the supreme ruler, lived. Who would dare to just barge in there? People would only do so if they felt that they had no other choice.
“I guess there are only a handful of stories it could be. But seeing that the person was originally mortal …” He fell quiet for a moment before he finally looked up at the old man again. “This should be the story of Lu Yu and Yong Xia.”
The old man’s eyes widened slightly and he finally nodded, unable to say a word for the moment.
The other people turned to Qiu Ling and Jing He, all clamoring, unable to believe what was happening. “What? Is he actually right? How could that be? You didn’t even hear the other two hints!”
Jing He immediately lowered his head and then buried back into Qiu Ling’s arms. Maybe it would have been better if he actually kept quiet.
Qiu Ling rubbed his arm, before reaching up and slightly raising his mask. While the others couldn’t see his face, it was enough to lean down and kiss Jing He’s temple. “Ah, my fiance is the smartest. I admire you!”
Jing He’s face turned beet-red and he wriggled in his arms, trying to somehow escape the gazes from around them. This … was really going a little too far, wasn’t it? “Well, we should probably better go now.”
His fingers tightened around the lapel of Qiu Ling’s robe and he really hoped that he would take him away. Unfortunately, the dragon king had different thoughts.
“Eh? You really want to leave already? Isn’t it fun?” Well, to him, having to think about some kind of riddle that he wouldn’t be able to solve anyway also wasn’t that fun but he did like seeing Jing He ponder this kind of matter and stun everybody with his vast knowledge.
Anyway, he had always known that his beloved was great. It was about time that everybody else found out too. Still, if Jing He didn’t want to, then he naturally wouldn’t force him. “Then do you want to go somewhere else? I’m sure there’s still other things around we can do.”
Jing He hardly dared to look up and just gave a very faint nod. It was enough for him as long as he could escape the gazes of the other people.
Before the two of them could actually leave, the old man cleared his throat though. “Well, before you go, wait for a moment. Since you managed to solve the riddle, you should naturally also get the prize.” He turned to the side and picked two fruits from the basket next to him, handing them over. “These are from my very own garden.”
Qiu Ling took them, looking at Jing He again. He didn’t know about stories and he also didn’t know about plants. Once again, that was something that his beloved was better at.
Seeing the fruits, Jing He couldn’t help but smile and take one of them from Qiu Ling. “Aren’t these the fruits of the Teardrop tree? Those are notoriously difficult to cultivate. Is it really alright to give us two of them?”
The old man beamed when he heard that Jing He could even identify what kind of plant these fruits came from. “Well, that is the prize I have dedicated to this game. Anyway, I can’t eat them all alone. You have them.” He looked from Jing He to Qiu Ling and then back again. “Young man, can I ask you one question before you leave?”
Jing He nodded, looking up at the man. “But of course.” Even wearing the mask, he was unable to change his own behavior. Old people definitely had to be respected. That was just a matter of course to him.
The old man smiled and rubbed his chin. “You were able to solve the riddle so fast. Can I ask you if there is something special about the story for you?”
Jing He could imagine where that question was coming from. “To be honest, I think that it was not because of that. Since you said that there would be a prize if somebody was able to solve the riddle with just one hint, then that hint has to be clear enough to solve the riddle just based on that as long as one thinks it through. All the clues are right there. They are in the information given at face value and also in the way it is phrased. I merely looked at these things and then realized what story it was.”
The old man rubbed his chin again, pondering that. “Well, I guess that is true. But do you actually like the story?”
“If you are asking if it is my favorite story, then I would have to say no. But I can say that I think it is a very beautiful one. The love that the two of them felt for each other is very special. I do admire that Yong Xia was willing to go so far for his lover. That is something very special that not every person would be willing to do. He was a special man and their love was a special love. That is admirable and something a lot of people can only envy them for.”
The old man nodded and then turned to the side, taking out a much smaller box. “I like what you’re saying, child! Let me give you this as well.
“When I was younger, I was a bit of an adventure and so was my wife. That was how we met and also how we came upon this. Back then, we were actually traveling through the dragon realm which not many gods can boast of having seen. I found this gemstone and my wife thought that it was beautiful so I took some time when we were resting and had it made into a piece of jewelry for her.
“Unfortunately, my wife has left me long ago. It is only me now and this piece is all that remains. It is quite sad to think about it. Quite honestly, I have felt for some time that it shouldn’t stay with me. It was found out there and then made into a token of affection. That affection hasn’t died with her. It would be a pity to let the thing just sit around and gather dust.
“I can see that you and your partner are very affectionate with each other as well. I feel like you should have it.” He took Jing He’s hand, put the small chest on top, and then patted his arm. “You keep it. I hope you will be a couple just as strong as Lu Yu and Yong Xia were.”
Jing He looked at the old man, not sure what he should say.
Qiu Ling looked at him as well, a faint smile on his lips. That somebody that didn’t know them said something like this really made him happy. He turned to Jing He and lightly brushed through his hair. “I can’t promise that I’ll be able to do everything they did but I do promise you that I will do for you whatever I can and love you until the last day as well.”
Jing He looked up at him, his gaze softening. These words … Hearing them really made him happy. Looking up at the old man again, he finally nodded. “Thank you. We will definitely treasure it.”