Jing He couldn’t calm down at all after awakening from such a dream. While he did lie back down, sleep did not want to come back. Instead, the longer he lay there, the more often those thoughts went through his head, making him become even more agitated instead.
In the end, he pushed back the blanket and got up, putting on his outer robe again, and went out of the palace and into the garden. He strode around between the flower beds, hoping that the breeze would be able to cool his head and the familiar sight calm his heart. He just shouldn’t think about it any longer. Whether it was a dream or the dragon king himself, it was best to seal it off somewhere in the deeper recesses of his mind. Obviously, it was not good to associate with this.
He sighed and then looked up to the sky, watching the twinkling stars. This … was probably a bit like that legendary night when Xing and Tian met. The stars above, the one named after them on the ground, gazing silently while trapped in desolation. Nobody was there to help him ease the pain and there was only that one person that silently watched him, finally deciding to end his suffering.
It was a pity that contrary to Xing, he would not have this chance. There wouldn’t be the perfect man appearing in front of him just a few days later, asking for his hand in marriage. Even if there was, his parents wouldn’t just agree. Well, his mother might but his father definitely wouldn’t. Getting married … he feared that he would have to wait at least another millennium.
Jing He sighed again and then went over to the pavilion where he had sat with Qiu Ling today. He sat down again, looking at the other seat opposite him, feeling himself in a subtle mood now that he was here alone.
This man … He had already become such a huge part of his life. Most likely, even if they were married, they would not be able to spend much more time with each other than they did right now. The only difference was in the title only.
Right now, the dragon king was just the dragon king and he was just the Son of Heaven. Between them … They were just two people important to two allied races. Personally, there was nothing between them. If only that could be changed. If only … Then maybe he wouldn’t have to feel this bad about his intense longing … It would not be wrong if it was one’s own fiance one longed for. But a man with no official relationship with him … How could he dare to do that?
Jing He closed his eyes and a hint of pain crossed his face. This identity of his was truly cursed. It wasn’t as if he hadn’t known before but up until now, he hadn’t felt the implications as heavily.
Yes, maybe he needed to be more careful than others did to be able to live a secure life but he had never felt that there was something that he wanted and couldn’t have because of who he was. But now … Now, he really understood. Being the Heavenly Emperor’s son, it really wasn’t anything good.
There were a few drops of tears clinging to his lashes when he opened his eyes again and looked up at the sky once more. He kind of wished that he had never realized his feelings for the dragon king. Then he wouldn’t feel like this now.
He could just go on living his life every day like before, feeling that it was actually slightly annoying to have to entertain somebody every day. It wouldn’t hurt as much. It wouldn’t make him question his identity, his future, his whole existence. But no matter how much he resented the situation he was in, it wouldn’t change anything. He could only take it as it was and learn to live with it.
He sighed and took a few deep breaths, raising his arm and likely dabbing at his eyes with his sleeve. Wiping away the tears, he forced a smile on his lips and then returned to the palace. He took off his robe and slipped back into bed, pulling the blanket up to his chin. Tomorrow … Maybe he would find a way to deal with this tomorrow. Anyway, he did not have another choice. He could do nothing but find a way to learn to live with this.
For the rest of the night, Jing He lay awake, unable to calm his perturbed mind and his heart that sped up as soon as he thought of the dragon king. It seemed that no matter what he did, in the future, there would always be this problem.
The next morning, Jing He awoke with the first rays of light as usual but once again, he was tired beyond belief. He lay there for a moment, closing his eyes again, and taking a deep breath before exhaling slowly and only then sat up. He looked at the window above his bed, wondering just what this day would bring. Finally, he got up, went to wash up, put on a new robe, and then did his hair.
Sitting in front of his dressing table, he couldn’t help but hesitate for a moment. Having brushed his hair and wanting to style it in the usual way, he couldn’t help but remember how the dragon king had looked at him on the day of the Jiyi festival. He grabbed a few strands at the side and experimentally pulled them aside, revealing his cheeks and part of his neck.
As soon as he saw the way it displayed his skin, he let go of it as if he had burned himself. This … Wasn’t this just the equivalent of inviting Longjun? He couldn’t be that shameless.
He shook his head at himself and then just used the common style of just taking the upper part of his hair and fasten it at the back of his head while his skin was still covered by the lower half. Yes, this was much better. Anyway, he did not want Longjun to think that he was such an easy person. So how could he deviate from his usual self just because of the thoughts he had lately? Wouldn’t that completely defeat the purpose of having groomed his image for so many years?
Also, if it made Longjun look differently at him, it wasn’t worth it. Yes, he would like to enter this man’s eyes but if the result was that he looked at him with disgust instead of interest, then that really wasn’t what he wanted. No, he had to be careful or he would make things more difficult for himself.
Not long after Jing He finished, his palace ushered in a not really unexpected guest.
Qiu Ling smiled brightly at Jing He, pulling out a flower from behind his back and inserting it in his hair without even waiting for his response. “A little present in the hopes that it’ll make you feel better. How are you doing?”
Jing He looked at him in stunned silence and needed a moment to recollect himself. He reached up but dropped his hand halfway up. “Longjun is too kind. I am already doing much better. I was merely a little tired yesterday so I needed to rest.”
Qiu Ling nodded and then reached out, taking Jing He’s hand and peering at his face. “Truth be told, you still look a little pale. Are you sure that you don’t need some more rest?”
Jing He shook his head. “No, there’s no need to. I’m really doing well.”
Qiu Ling nodded and then tugged at Jing He’s hand, pulling him over to the table. “Still, you should probably sit down and not strain yourself too much today.” He pushed him down in the chair, his hands lingering on Jing He’s shoulders for a moment. Then he leaned down, his breath brushing Jing He’s cheek. “I would be very distraught if anything happened to you.”
Jing He’s cheeks slightly reddened and he hurriedly lowered his head to make sure that the shadow his hair left would cover up his reaction. He definitely couldn’t let the dragon king catch onto his feelings or the situation would get even more difficult.
Unfortunately for him, Qiu Ling had been spending a lot of time with him in the past years. And just as usual, he was paying close attention to everything Jing He did. Thus, he didn’t fail to notice that his beloved seemed a little out of it. And with the way his thoughts worked when it concerned Jing He, he naturally had his own interpretation of what was going on. This time, he finally managed to be right about it as well.
Ah, it had to be that his plan was finally working! Seeing how caring he was, his beloved was feeling that he had to be a very suitable lover and was slowly losing his heart to him.
This was everything he had worked toward the last few years. He had to keep at it now that he was ahead. In fact, this was the perfect opportunity to make his dream come true. While it felt a little bit despicable to make use of his beloved’s weak moment, everything was allowed in war and love. Actually, when they were a happy couple in the future and he confessed the truth to his beloved, he wouldn’t have a problem with it.
Yes, most likely, Jing He would give one of his clear laughs, and gently put his hand on his arm, leaning into his embrace. ‘I am so happy that you never gave up, Qiu Ling. If you had, I would have missed out on the best thing in my life. You have no idea how much I would regret that.’
Qiu Ling closed his eyes, reveling in the moment. He imagined how he would reach out, his fingers brushing through Jing He’s silky black hair. And then he would say –
Jing He’s voice pulled him out of his thoughts and he opened his eyes, noticing that he had actually reached out to brush his fingers through Jing He’s silky hair. He let go with a reluctant gaze and then hid his hand behind his back. “There was …” He was wondering if he should say that there was a bug or maybe a knot or something but then again, there was no way something like that would ever be in his beloved’s hair so he definitely wouldn’t believe it. No, it was better to just ignore the matter. “I was wondering what you would like to do today and was trying to get your attention. How about just painting something? It calms the mind and shouldn’t be too strenuous.”
Jing He looked at him, unable to follow this fast. “That …”
“No good?” Qiu Ling raised his brows, wondering for a moment longer. “In that case, how about … some music? I’m pretty sure it has the very same calming effect but maybe it’s even better.”
Jing He was a little intrigued. “Longjun knows how to play an instrument?” He had already been surprised when he found out that Qiu Ling actually knew how to paint so it probably shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to him but he still wouldn’t have expected it.
Qiu Ling froze. “Oh … Oh well, I’m not very good. Instead, I’d be very interested in hearing you play. Would you do me the favor?” Since he had already crossed the boundary once, he reached out once again, wrapping one of those beautiful black strands around his index finger.
Jing He looked down, staring at the scene in a daze. This … What was he supposed to do now? In the end, he could only give a smile and then get up. “Then, let me get an instrument.”
Qiu Ling hurriedly gripped his shoulders and pushed him back down. “No need, no need. Just tell me where it is and I’ll get it for you. I wouldn’t want you to strain yourself.”