RSH Stratagem 31: A Small Gift Can Never Hurt (1)

Author’s Note:

Before I get to today’s chapter, here’s a quick announcement: This week, I published a revised version of RSH’s first volume as an ebook over on Amazon. It is called To Meet Your Other Half and comes with a new synopsis and cover.

There will also be an announcement post a little later today where I talk not only about the publication but also some other things I have or will be working on behind-the-scenes soon.

Jing He needed a moment to realize that what Qiu Ling was holding in his hands was probably a piece of jade as well or maybe a similar ore. In any case, the surface looked quite smooth, and it was of a pale red color, contrasting quite nicely with Qiu Ling’s dark robe.

Before Jing He could ask any further, he saw one of Qiu Ling’s nails elongate and turn into a sharp claw. He blinked his eyes but then remembered how they had talked about this before. Naturally, the dragons were able to change their form, and even while staying in one form, there were some subtle changes to the body that could be made. He had never seen this used before so he couldn’t help but look more closely.

Usually, Qiu Ling’s nails were darker than those of a god by several shades, actually seeming a bit as if they were anthracite. Now that the whole claw was extended, it showed a brilliant black color instead, just like Qiu Ling’s hair.

Jing He was reminded of the beauty standards of the dragons and couldn’t help but give Qiu Ling a once-over. Well, he certainly understood just why this kind of look was popular. To him, it was also quite nice.

To be honest, the fact that his hair and eyes were mostly black also made him feel more familiar because that was how it was for most gods as well. You seldom saw one with a lighter color. If you did, then they were often ascended deities that had originally lived as humans outside of their realm. But even those were usually much closer in looks to them than the other races.

The dragon king’s looks were something that actually resembled them quite a lot — minus the claws of course. To say that he wasn’t pleased with that would be a lie. It just made him feel that irrespective of their race, they probably made for a beautiful couple.

Qiu Ling had definitely noticed that Jing He was observing him but he didn’t say anything about it. His beloved wasn’t looking at him often enough, not by far. To finally be observed by him like this … oh, he was very pleased with that and enjoyed the moment very much.

He just smiled while he cut the rock in his hands, the shape definitely not turning out like the fish that Jing He was holding. When Jing He finally turned back to look, he also realized this. He wanted to ask but also didn’t want to embarrass the dragon king in case he hadn’t realized so finally, he just stayed quiet and watched.

More and more of the stone was carved off, finally exposing a certain form. It looked … Jing He finally guessed when Qiu Ling’s claws had gone around the rock a few more times, stylizing the form a little more and starting to add some details here and there.

What was lying in his hands was clearly a miniature dragon, one that was curled around itself, the end of its tail sticking out on one side while the head was resting atop, looking at him from slitted eyes.

Jing He faintly gulped and then looked up at Qiu Ling, wondering if there was some deeper meaning to this. Clearly, the dragon king was the type of man who did nothing without thinking about it. If he made something like this in front of him, then he had the faint feeling that he knew what would end up happening with this.

And indeed, Qiu Ling soon finished it up, making sure that there wasn’t a single sharp point on it, before he added the last few details, making the dragon seem almost lifelike.

He smiled at his creation and then put it down next to him on the bed before he patted at the chips of stone that had fallen down onto the flap of his robe and brushing all of it back into his spatial ring, not caring that it dirtied the ground over there. He just didn’t want for any of this to end up where it might hurt his beloved.

When he was sure that not a single bit had escaped his eyes, he picked the little dragon up again, his breath brushing over it before he swung his legs back over the edge of the bed and inched closer to Jing He, putting it in his hands. “What do you say?”

Jing He held the small statue, staring at it in bewilderment. Just like before, he still couldn’t believe that Qiu Ling had this kind of skill even though he had watched him shape this. Still. “It is very beautiful.” Although, he couldn’t help but feel that it was a pity that it was of this faint red color and not a deep black like the dragon king probably would be if he changed forms.

When that thought crossed his mind, Jing He’s cheeks flushed again and he hurriedly lowered his head.

Qiu Ling blinked his eyes, for once not quite understanding what was going on in his beloved’s mind. To be honest, he had just wanted to amuse him with this and he had felt that a small dragon would probably be best for that.

Now though, that reaction was a little … strange? He didn’t know what to make of it and he also didn’t dare to ask. Right now, he couldn’t forget that Jing He was still sick. It was alright to tease him a little every now and then but he couldn’t go overboard or this would end badly. Thus, he finally didn’t comment on the topic and just said what he had originally intended to mention. “If you like it, please keep it. In any case, that is the kind of thing I would sometimes do. I made quite a lot of these.”

Jing He held the small dragon for some time more before he turned to the side, carefully putting it down on top of the box that Qiu Ling had brought with him. Then, he turned back to the dragon king.

Looking into his eyes, he seemed to be in a good mood. Jing He hesitated only for a moment before he decided to be bold for a change. “Then … would you mind showing me a few? I’m sure they are all beautiful.”

Qiu Ling smiled and nodded, sifting through his spatial ring. Usually, he didn’t keep things organized but when it came to the ones he felt he had done well, he had at least put them down in the shelf that he had put at the side.

Now, he took out a few one by one, spreading them out on the blanket over Jing He’s legs and around him.

Jing He blinked, watching on as, one after another, things were taken out and displayed in front of him. He hadn’t … well, he hadn’t imagined that there were so many. He had thought that this was something that the dragon king had only done every now and then, maybe working on one for a few weeks at a time.

But then again, he had just watched him make a small sculpture of a dragon in what probably hadn’t amounted to even an hour or two. Why was he still surprised? Clearly, this was a skill that had been honed over years. Surely, a lot would accumulate. “Your Majesty made all of these?”

Qiu Ling looked at him and nodded. “Well, these are some of the better ones. I wouldn’t dare to show you the ones that I made first. In fact, I don’t really have most of them anymore. But I figured that these were quite nice so I kept them.”

Jing He was even more enthralled when he realized just how often Qiu Ling must’ve made these things. he picked up one of the nearest ones, realizing that it was the sculpture of a beast he had never seen whether that was in real life or in a book. “This is …”

Qiu Ling looked at it, his expression turning a little strange. “Uh … That is … a Heaven-climber. Nothing really of interest.” He almost wanted to snatch it back but Jing He was still holding it, looking at the thing.

When he heard the name, Jing He couldn’t help but look up. He remembered it. His uncle had told him about it. Heaven climbers were a mythical beast, something incredibly ferocious, something that could injure even a dragon. And this was precisely the kind of beast that Qiu Ling had hunted to present its heart to him as a sign of his affection.

When Jing He finally found out what it was, he couldn’t help but look at it with different eyes. At first glance, it was beautiful, a slender creature that seemed beautiful at this size. But when taking into account that the real one had to be many, many times bigger than this, he could imagine that it was difficult to fight against.

It had had a pair of huge wings almost as big as the body, one of which was completely folded up in this little sculpture while the other had been partly unfolded, showing feathers that seemed strangely sharp in some places as if they weren’t quite like those of a bird. Upon a closer look, he realized that there weren’t just feathers. Instead, part of the body and maybe even part of the wings was covered by densely packed scales, not quite unlike those of a dragon.

The most striking feature might’ve been its talons though. They seemed much longer and sharper than the claws of a dragon, incredibly deadly even though they were faintly curled around the rock at the bottom of this little statue, making them seem less troublesome at first glance.

“Longjun fought one of these.” It wasn’t a question. He knew that Qiu Ling had done so and he knew that he won that fight. He couldn’t quite help his heart from suddenly pounding though. This kind of creature … “Did you get injured badly while you did so?”

Qiu Ling looked at him, his gaze resting deeply on Jing He while his body involuntarily shuddered a little. To be honest, it wasn’t the memory of the fight that did that to him. It was the concern in Jing He’s eyes.

Inside of him, there were two thoughts wrestling for victory. On one hand, he wanted to tell him that yes, he definitely had been badly injured and he could use some words of comfort and maybe a hug. On the other side, he wanted Jing He to see him as strong and he also didn’t want to worry Jing He. Especially not in his current condition.

In the end, Qiu Ling settled for something in-between. “If I told you that I wasn’t, you probably wouldn’t believe me anyway so I guess I might as well admit that I was. Although it wasn’t that bad. When I fought this, I already had a lot of experience. It wasn’t an easy fight but still one I was up for.”

Jing He heaved a sigh of relief. It was probably normal to be injured when fighting against something like this. Just to know that it hadn’t been too bad when he confronted it was enough for him. “Longjun is a very courageous man.”

“When the possible reward is big enough, everybody has some more courage in them.” He reached out and picked the little statue from Jing He’s hands, putting it back into his spatial ring. He definitely didn’t want him to think about this too much. “I’m sure some of the others will be more to your liking.”

Jing He smiled, understanding exactly why Qiu Ling had done this. The thought warmed his heart and he picked up the other things, not wanting his concern to go to waste. To be honest, the small statue of the Heaven climber had been beautiful as well but indeed, it was something he didn’t want to think about too much. Thus, it was much better to focus on something else.

« ToC »

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