RSH Stratagem 24: Better Yourself for Your Beloved’s Sake! (3)

It was not too difficult to find instruments for the king. After all, this was still the dragon realm’s capital city. Needless to say, a city of this size would naturally also have a few stores with musical instruments. The only problem was what to choose from all of them?

Standing in front of the shelves and looking at the ones that were being showcased, An Bai couldn’t help but furrow his brows.

The owner was soon brought over by one of the attendants and walked up to him. “Scholar An Bai, are you looking for something specific?”

An Bai was not an unknown person here. After all, with having dabbled in learning several of these instruments, he naturally had come to the store quite often to choose one for himself or have something repaired in the past. Naturally, they were happy to see him again.

An Bai turned to the owner and gave a smile. “Greetings. To be honest, I’m not looking for something for myself. The king has shown an interest in picking up a new instrument. I am not quite sure what would be the best one though.” He kept to himself that his king actually didn’t know how to play a single instrument and just phrased it in a way that made it seem as if Qiu Ling had already known quite a few others and was just adding something to his collection. While it might not be the truth, he didn’t want his king to lose face with his people. Maybe they wouldn’t mind but as a scholar, he couldn’t help but wish that the king was a little more interested in these things. Every now and then, he wondered if others were in the same.

Hearing that it was the king himself who wanted one of the instruments, the owner was immediately excited. “Did the king express interest in a specific kind? Maybe we could narrow it down.”

An Bai could only give an embarrassed smile. “Truth be told, His Majesty wasn’t too specific. I am a little worried that I might get the wrong thing. That is the reason why I am hesitant right now.”

The owner wasn’t quite sure how to help with that. Looking from An Bai to the instruments and thinking of how the person having made the request was the king, he finally couldn’t help but be a little more daring. “Well, if His Majesty has the time, how about letting him listen to them first? It is likely easier to decide if he knows which sound he likes the most.”

An Bai slowly nodded. Yes, this would probably be for the best. “I guess we should do that then.”

The owner looked at the instruments, still a bit hesitant at first but then still spoke up. “Well, Scholar An Bai knows how to play most of these. Do you want to take a few with you for now and then bring them those back that His Majesty doesn’t want to keep? I could also send somebody with you that can demonstrate them.”

An Bai was a little surprised. He had thought that he would have to try and drag the king over here which might result in a strange situation but as it turned out, the owner was actually this accommodating. “Wouldn’t it be a problem if I took some with me?” He couldn’t help but want to make sure. After all, the store was relying on these instruments to make a living.

The owner shook his head though. “Well, this is for the king after all. In any case, I trust Scholar An Bai that you will bring the others back as soon as possible.”

An Bai nodded. “I definitely will. Then, I guess that a bowed instrument or a wind instrument would be the best fit. Maybe you can give me a few of those? I think he would also like something that can be easily taken along and is mostly played alone.” While it wouldn’t be a problem to transport something in his spatial ring, he probably also wouldn’t want something too big. After all, the aesthetic probably wouldn’t fit his purpose.

The owner thought similarly and nodded, waving at the attendant to come and choose a few things from the back. Finally, he returned with five different instruments of each kind. “Would Scholar An Bai he liked to take a look? I know this isn’t too much but I think this will already tell us the general direction. If His Majesty isn’t happy with any of them, we can still try to find something better. But we should already have a general direction by then.”

An Bai took a look and realized that they were some of the more common instruments but still showed a certain variety so he nodded. “I think this will do. Thank you very much. I will have His Majesty decide as soon as possible and bring the others back immediately.”

“Please don’t worry too much, Scholar An Bai. Since we know you, there really isn’t a problem in taking your time. We also wouldn’t want to rush the king.” Actually, thinking about how one of the instruments would soon be used by their king, the owner couldn’t help but smile widely. This was such an honor! In fact, even if the king wanted to keep all ten of them, he also wouldn’t say anything.

Seeing his expression, An Bai could imagine what was going through the owner’s head. He smiled faintly and nodded. “Very well. I will convey your words to the king.” He bid his farewell and then returned to the palace. When he came back, Qiu Ling was still sitting at the table, drumming on it with his fingers. Obviously, he was quite impatient.

An Bai greeted him and then opened his spatial ring, taking out the instruments he had borrowed. “These are from a store in the city. I have taken ten instruments so Your Majesty will have something to choose from. I will demonstrate them one by one and you can see which one you like.”

He first picked up one of the flutes, put it to his lips, and then played a quick tune. When he opened his eyes again and lowered the flute, he took a look at his king. Qiu Ling … did not seem impressed.

“Well, maybe something different.” An Bai actually felt that the bamboo flute would be quite well-suited to woo the Son of Heaven. After all, it could express delicate emotions rather well and was quite gentle. But if his king didn’t like it, there was nothing he could do. He picked up a xiao next and once again played a few notes so his king could get an impression. When he looked at him, Qiu Ling shook his head though.

“Boring.”

An Bai stared at him, wondering what exactly his king had been expecting. Something told him that if it had been the Son of Heaven who played the very same notes in the very same manner, he probably would have praised it quite a lot. Maybe the person who played the instrument played a big role in how we would evaluate this. It seemed he could only hope that one of the other eight instruments would do a better job.

“Well, there are more. I guess it’s not a problem if the first few aren’t to Your Majesty’s liking.” Looking at the others, he finally picked up a suona. Playing another short melody, he actually found his king frowning at him. “Not any better?” He felt that this instrument likely wouldn’t be as well-suited for wooing the Son of Heaven since it was usually more cheerful-sounding but that could also make for some harmonious hours together.

“No, something else.” Qiu Ling waved impatiently and looked at the other instruments as if he wasn’t convinced that they would be suitable at all.

An Bai actually got a little worried by now. Since he had only five wind instruments and five bowed instruments, there were only two of the former kind left. Since His Majesty hadn’t liked any so far, it was unlikely that the other two would be any better. He put the suona down and instead picked up a sheng. As a result, the king’s scoff interrupted him before he had managed to play more than two or three notes. An Bai lowered the instrument, giving his king a questioning look.

“I don’t know. I find it grating to the ears. Show me something else.” He waved again and his look became even more disapproving when An Bai reached for the last wind instrument.

An Bai hesitated with his hand in the air and finally ignored the instrument and instead grabbed the first bowed instrument. “Let’s give one of these a try then. In fact, these might be more suitable for Your Majesty’s intention.”

Qiu Ling nodded, feeling that it couldn’t get any worse anyway.

An Bai sat down opposite him and then played a few notes, keeping a wary eye on his king.

This time, he actually managed to elicit a sliver of interest from him.

« ToC »

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