Qiu Ling left an hour later, feeling that his beloved had been unusually quiet today. Even though he was usually a person that didn’t say much in the first place and instead let him do most of the talking, only responding to what he said, things had been different today. Sometimes, the silence would stretch on for a few minutes and even if he spoke up, Jing He would be in a bit of a daze before he finally answered, and then there was nothing much to say afterward because his response was short and vague.
It was a situation that Qiu Ling was a little unaccustomed to. And he also couldn’t help but wonder just what had brought this difference about. He knew that Jing He hadn’t been doing that well yesterday so maybe it was just that he was tired or was really getting sick. In that case, it wasn’t that strange. He should make sure that he gave him enough time to rest. And he should probably bring over some medicine or something …
Thinking of that, Qiu Ling rushed back to the dragon realm, rushing into An Bai’s study and almost making him drop the brush that he had been holding, spilling the ink everywhere.
“You! What kind of medicine would be good for somebody who hasn’t been resting well?”
An Bai took a shallow breath, and put the brush to the side, trying to calm himself. His king really had a strange way of coming to ask for something. “That will likely depend on why the person hasn’t been resting well.”
Qiu Ling pursed his lips. How was he supposed to know? “Is there anything that works in general?”
An Bai didn’t know how to answer that question. “Well, if you don’t just want to treat the symptoms but the problem at the root instead, then naturally, knowing the cause will be necessary.”
“Then can’t you just find me something for every possible cause?”
An Bai once again needed to weigh his words for a moment. “There are quite a few possibilities there.”
“Well, then you’d better hurry up!” Qiu Ling went to sit down and then stared at An Bai, clearly wanting him to take care of this no matter how unreasonable it was.
An Bai still hesitated for a moment but finally just inclined his head and got up. “Then please excuse me for a moment. There should be some herbs in the courtyard that can be used. If Your Majesty still needs more after that, I would need to go and look for them outside.”
Qiu Ling gave a hum and then leaned back, not saying anything else. An Bai went outside, slowly gathering the herbs that his king might need. Knowing him, this was definitely for the Son of Heaven to use. Unfortunately, after his king’s previous outburst of jealousy, he hadn’t really seen him much. So he had no idea what the actual reason behind his restlessness was.
Considering how he had behaved before, it might just be that there were too many thoughts swirling in his head, making him unable to calm down. Otherwise, he might actually be sick. But that was something that should better be treated by the God of Medicine who would know more about the bodies of the gods than him. Thus, An Bai mostly focused his efforts on choosing herbs that could calm the mind.
Finally, he got back up, returning to his study with a basket full of herbs. “I hope that this will suffice. Will Your Majesty be bringing them over immediately?”
Qiu Ling who had already reached out took back his hand. “I wanted to do so tomorrow.” Don’t tell him that the herbs wouldn’t be able to wait that long!
An Bai nodded and then put down the basket on the table, turning to one of the cabinets at the side. He took out a box of jade that was inscribed with a formation on top, and then put the herbs inside carefully. “Your Majesty should leave them in this box then to keep them fresh until they are to be used.”
Qiu Ling nodded, took the box, and put it in his spatial ring. Considering that this was something very important for his beloved, he was even careful when putting it down. Then, he got up and lightly nodded. “Very well, then that’s been taken care of. You can go back to whatever it was you were doing.” He waved and didn’t even take a look before he went over to the door, leaving An Bai’s study. He didn’t even bother to say his thanks, just considering it a matter of course.
An Bai could only sigh and sat down at his desk again, taking a new piece of paper before he picked up the brush again and started over. Most likely, the king wouldn’t come back that soon.
Meanwhile, Qiu Ling left the dragon realm’s capital city. He went to a cliff somewhere in the countryside, sitting down at the edge, and then took out the huqin. He hesitated for a moment but then picked up the bow, and started to slowly try again.
Back in the palace, he had mostly just been playing around and getting a feel for how this worked. Now that he was alone and wasn’t worried about being overheard, he actually got serious.
He slowly tested out the different movements of the bow that An Bai had shown him, first trying to get a better grasp on that without even putting pressure on the strings with his other hand. From what he understood, there were two parts to master when playing this instrument: the movement of the bow and the exact place where he held the strings with the fingers of the other hand. Doing both at once was too difficult for him so he would slowly try one after the other.
Having made that decision, Qiu Ling continued to focus on moving the bow in the way An Bai had shown him. Only when he figured that he had at least understood the general way to go about it, did he start trying to make different notes by pressing down the strings.
The results couldn’t be called a beautiful melody but at least it didn’t sound like ghosts wailing anymore. If he put in a bit of effort, then he was pretty sure that he could learn a simple melody in a few weeks. If it was something more complicated, that would naturally take more time. But at the very least, he had managed to learn the basics. He felt that this actually wasn’t too bad considering that he had only started today. Now, he just needed to practice more.
Nodding to himself, he continued to try over and over again, until the sun finally went down in the distance, leaving him in the darkness. Even then, Qiu Ling just closed his eyes and continued to practice. In any case, if he could play without seeing what he did, it was even better.
Thinking about how he wanted his final presentation to go, one of the most important things was that he could give Jing He a deep look while he played, making sure that his beloved understood that he was only thinking about him while he did so. So, he could definitely not only be able to play while looking at the strings and the bow.
Qiu Ling was not the only person awake that night. Jing He was lying in bed, staring up at the ceiling restlessly. The matters of this day incessantly repeated in his mind, not letting him close his eyes at all. He really wanted to sleep but what was he supposed to do? If he did close his eyes, if he did fall asleep, he would just be tormented by his sinful wishes again.
He couldn’t bring himself to allow that. How great would it be to just close his eyes and welcome the darkness? To just see nothing, hear nothing, feel nothing. Right now, it sounded so wonderful.
But then again, imagining to have that kind of dreamless night in the future, he was also a little unhappy if he was honest with himself. After all, there was no way to get close to the dragon king in reality. Not without sacrificing the image he had cultivated for himself. Not without angering his father. Not without betraying what he was supposed to be, what he wanted to be. Only in his dreams could he be allowed to be held in that man’s arms and indulge in his warmth.
How many excuses could he find for that in real life? And when he woke up in the morning, he could just pretend that it had never happened. Or that even if it happened, it was not his own fault because surely, he could not control his dreams.
Unfortunately, just knowing that he looked forward to it made it impossible for him to really convince himself. As such, even though there was nobody there to see, he forced himself not to give in that easily. At least for a while, he would have to fight against it. He owed that to himself, didn’t he?