Qiu Ling could see from Jing Yi’s expression that he wanted to disagree but he just faintly shook his head. “I know what you want to say. You don’t believe it. But I’m afraid you don’t know most of it.
“The decisions I made in these years, weren’t they for my own sake? Granted, I made each and every one of them because I … love him and later loved you as well. But that doesn’t mean that I stopped to think about whether it would be the right thing for you as well. Or him for that matter.
“No, even when that thought crossed my mind, I didn’t follow through because I was still afraid. Afraid to lose the person I love. And in the end, it was my behavior that might have let that happen.”
Jing Yi shook his head at him. “I don’t think that way. In any case, I don’t think you’ve done anything bad. Maybe there are some matters where I don’t agree with you like not letting me learn how to use a sword because you don’t want Jing He to be burdened with that. But that isn’t for yourself either. That’s for him. Because you … love him. Maybe you love him a little too much to always be good to me but that’s not selfish.”
Qiu Ling smiled and interlaced his fingers with Jing Yi’s, faintly raising his brows. “You’re a bit naive if you think that is everything that I’ve done to you. Remember how I would insert myself between you and your friends? Or how I would lie to you in the early years just so I didn’t have to be afraid that you would grow up loving somebody else even though I had no reason to think so? How I would try to convince you to stay in the Hei Dian Sect in the mortal realm because we could’ve gotten married there more easily?
“And yes, how I finally didn’t want to teach you things because it would have negatively impacted Jing He? How even in the current situation I wanted to argue with you about this matter with the idle gods’ courtyard because it is what I wanted?
“In the end, this trial had a lot of benefits for me. But what did it give you or Jing He? I know that for the most part, this trial is meant to let the gods experience suffering and other things that they might not in the Nine Heavens. To teach them humility and compassion for the mortals. But at the same time, I think that it is also a chance for them.
“Jing He could’ve made the memories there that he was never able to make in the Nine Heavens. A normal childhood, a normal family, normal friends — all those things. And I took each and every single one of them from him. I will not deny that that is the case. Even if everyone else has had some kind of positive outcome from this, I’m afraid he hasn’t. And as a result, neither do you.”
Qiu Ling shook his head at himself. “The worst thing is that even though I sometimes thought of that before, it only really hit me before when I was talking with Qiang Yan and then went to see Jing He.
“Yes, I was selfish. I can’t even promise you that I won’t continue to be going forward. I don’t want to excuse it but I’ve never learned to do anything else. At first, in the capital city, I still had some kind of status. And even though the situation was complicated, whenever I made trouble or did things wrong, there would always be Jinde advocating for me. And then later, there is nobody but me and my parents and then just me in the end. I always did what was best for myself because it was the only thing that I could do.
“After I returned … after I became the dragon king, I forgot that I wasn’t in the same situation anymore and just continued to act the way it did before. I wasn’t a bad king in the early years. I just did what was asked of me and tried my best.
“But because I was afraid because I didn’t want to risk being exposed, I soon found some advisers to push my work off to and started to act like a fool. It was a way to hide myself, to defend against any attacks that might come.
“I wanted to protect myself. But that doesn’t mean that it wasn’t wrong. And with so many years of doing that, I’m afraid that I just continued to act that way when I met Jing He and then followed him on the trial. And only now that I’m learning to open up, am I slowly realizing that I should have done this much sooner. It would have spared you from a world of hurt. I’m sorry for that.”
Jing Yi looked at him, not even sure what to say. He wanted to say that nothing of the like had happened, that all of this wasn’t true, that he had always been happy with him but … looking at Qiu Ling, at his expression that was unprecedentedly serious, he knew that that was the wrong thing to say.
Even though he had never felt the way that Qiu Ling apparently thought he had made him feel, Qiu Ling had had some kind of revelation and he couldn’t take that from him. In any case, Qiu Ling opening up was something that he would also welcome.
He thought for a moment and then squeezed his hand, reaching up with the other to rub his chest. “It’s alright. In any case, my life was never meant to be perfect. So even if you did things wrong, that was probably in line with the trials.
“I can’t say what this will mean for Jing He but I guess it is also some kind of lesson learned. As for me, I might not have had some of the things that I should have had but I wasn’t unhappy. In any case, I still had part of my family and I also had you. To me, that was already worth a lot. And going forward, things can still change. So just keep in mind what you just said and draw your conclusions for the future.”