Meanwhile, things had taken a turn for the worse in the Nine Heavens. Qiu Ling hadn’t been able to stay away any longer and appeared in Jing He’s palace once again. As a result, he actually found the doors to Jing He’s bed-chamber and study being closed and could only stand in front, feeling aggrieved. Just not seeing each other for a few days and suddenly, it seemed as if the distance between them had gotten even bigger. That stupid An Bei, did he really understand people?! How come his advice had backfired this spectacularly?
He really was miffed but there was no way to change the past. He could only decide to not listen to that guy any further in the future and instead rely on himself. First of all, he had to take back that annoying excuse and tell his beloved that he had more time again. But he also couldn’t just burst out with that immediately upon seeing each other. No, he first had to show that he was still very much interested and worried about him. Yes, that should be the way to go.
He pondered for a moment and then decided that even if An Bai had been wrong with the current advice, the things he had said before weren’t too bad. His beloved always seemed to react quite well if he was polite and followed the customs of the Nine Heavens. Thinking of that, he finally went to stand a step away from the door of the study and called out lightly. “Your Highness.”
Unfortunately for him, there was no answer. It was as if Jing He hadn’t heard or … wasn’t willing to answer. Qiu Ling felt a sense of crisis but what could he do? He hesitated for a moment, trying to convince himself that it wasn’t that his beloved wouldn’t want to see him. No, no, there had to be some other reason. Thus, he tried to call out once again.
“Your Highness?” Even though he tried to sound normal, the worry in his voice was evident. Well, it figured. If he had really ruined his chances because of his behavior these past few weeks … he would never forgive himself. Hadn’t things been going well before? He shouldn’t have pulled back! Then again, his beloved had indeed seemed quite tired. He had done this for him! Could Jing He not see this?
This time, while Jing He didn’t answer immediately, at least his steps sounded from the other side. Apparently, he was coming over to the door. Qiu Ling’s heart thumped and his face lit up when he waited for the door to open. But once again, he was disappointed.
The door stayed close even though finally, his beloved’s voice rang out. “I’m sorry, I … I’m not feeling too well today. Please excuse me for not seeing you.”
Qiu Ling unwittingly stepped closer as if he had been pulled over by Jing He’s voice. He really just wanted to open this damned door and take a short look! But, of course, he knew that that would be stupid. Jing He wouldn’t want it. It might even make matters worse.
Qiu Ling gulped and tried to press down the nervousness in his heart. Don’t mention not seeing him right now. His beloved … he didn’t seem to be doing better even though he had given him time to rest. Could it be he was seriously ill? As soon as that notion arose, Qiu Ling’s nerves were high-strung. Even the thought of rushing to get both the God of Medicine and An Bai over here to check on him passed through his mind. He almost turned around to do so but finally composed himself. No, he first had to see if maybe something else was wrong. “What may be the matter?”
“I …” Jing He seemed to want to explain but, in the end, he just sighed and fell silent again.
Qiu Ling slightly furrowed his brows. Something was wrong. He wasn’t quite sure what it was but it definitely wasn’t right. Usually, wouldn’t his beloved at least step out to apologize for not being able to see him? But now, they were conversing through a closed door. This … this wasn’t like Jing He.
The panic in Qiu Ling’s heart rose further but he forcibly pressed it down. Jing He probably wouldn’t explain. In that case, he should reassure him a bit and then go to inquire elsewhere. Surely, the Heavenly Empress or the God of War would know what was up. He just needed to go and ask and could then plan accordingly.
Having made up his mind, Qiu Ling forced out a few words of well-wishes. “If you’re feeling unwell today, then you should lie down. Take it easy for today, take care of yourself. I … wouldn’t be able to take it if you … were to suffer any harm.”
Once again, silence answered him before Jing He finally whispered his answer. “I will.” He didn’t say anything else though. This really wasn’t like him.
Qiu Ling stepped closer to the door again, listening intently for what was happening on the other side. He just couldn’t help himself. “Is … is there anything I can do?”
Jing He on the other side of the door already felt pained enough by this current conversation. Hearing this question when he was already doubting the other man’s feelings was like a hit in the stomach. His expression twisted and he clenched his fist inside his sleeve, trying to keep his bearing. But the words that inadvertently slipped out revealed just how agitated he was. “This … should be of no concern to you.”
Qiu Ling was stunned speechless. This should be … of no concern to him? He wanted to deny it, to tell him that he loved him more than anyone else and wanted to marry him but the words got stuck in his throat. He loved him but … what about Jing He? Did he love him back? He had originally thought that Jing He was opening up to him but maybe he had been thinking too much. Maybe despite his best efforts in the past years, he still hadn’t been able to woo him sufficiently. In that case, he couldn’t say that, could he?
Qiu Ling closed his eyes, hiding the pain in his gaze. He wanted to proclaim his love but if it wasn’t wanted, then it really felt wrong to do so. He could only bury those feelings at the bottom of his heart for a moment and assume another identity. “How can you say that? Aren’t we friends? A friend’s well-being is naturally my concern.” He felt like his heart was bleeding reducing himself to ‘just a friend’ but he wanted Jing He to know: No matter what, he cared about him. If he couldn’t be his husband or his fiance or even his lover for the time being, then he was even satisfied just being a friend. He just wanted him to be well. “If I were able to do anything to -“
Before Qiu Ling finished his reassuring words, there was the sound of a gasp from the other side of the door and he heard the faintest rustling of clothes, as well as the sound of something colliding with wood. He didn’t think. He just pushed open the door and barely managed to catch Jing He in time. Looking at his pale face and the tightly shut eyes, his heart seemed to plunge into an abyss.
He held him tightly and all those random thoughts from before came to a halt. Who cared about that? He just had to make sure that Jing He was alright!
He pulled him up into his arms and then yelled for the guards at the door, not caring whether he had any right to command them or not. “Huang Lan! Mu Kun! Get the God of Medicine, now!”
The two guards looked at each other in alarm and Mu Kun immediately rushed off, not even verifying what had happened. Maybe it was the panic in the dragon king’s voice but he felt that he could not lose a single second or the result might be disastrous.