RSH Stratagem 31: A Small Gift Can Never Hurt (2)

Among the things that Qiu Ling had taken out were not just statues but even some jewelry.

Jing He carefully held a bracelet made of jade and couldn’t help but stare. “I didn’t know Longjun was able to make something like this as well.”

Qiu Ling raised his brows at him, and then looked at the bracelet that was actually quite simple. He had liked the way he managed to cut the jade, making a faint pattern appear, so he had still kept it. “So? Didn’t you like the mask and robe I made for you for the Jiyi Festival?

“This isn’t that much more difficult. In fact, I’d say it’s easier because it didn’t need to fit a specific person.” Saying so, he couldn’t help but reach out and take Jing He’s arm, pushing up his sleeve a few inches and looking at his slender wrist.

Giving a hum, his gaze seemed to become deeper. “Actually, if you like it, I really want to make one for you. You have really beautiful wrists. In fact, I can already imagine what would look good on them. If you don’t mind, I’ll give them to you as a gift for a special occasion. How does that sound?”

Jing He’s mind was reeling. There were just too many things in these few sentences that he had trouble keeping up. “The mask and the robe …” He had thought that Qiu Ling had somebody make them but now it seemed that that hadn’t been the case. “Longjun made both of those … on his own?”

His hand trembled which Qiu Ling naturally noticed since he was still holding one of them. He gently cradled it and then nodded.

“I did. This kind of thing, I also learned it over time while outside. Although I have to admit that it is something I have never done to this degree. It’s probably my proudest creation but just thinking of you is more than enough inspiration to come up with something beautiful.”

Jing He didn’t know what to think. Something like that robe and mask couldn’t have been made easily. Especially since he had not just made one for him each but two sets complementing each other. The time that should have needed … Well, he knew how long it could take if you wanted a special robe for a certain occasion.

What surprised him even more though was how smooth things had worked out. He had thought about this before: Usually, it would take several fittings to get a robe’s fit just right. As the crown prince of the Nine Heavens, he knew that. In fact, he preferred simpler robes in part because he didn’t want to have to go in several times to expose himself to others.

Thankfully, with how slow the gods aged, as long as you had several robes made at the same time using the same pattern and just with different fabrics and colors, you were able to cut the number of fittings down considerably.

But Longjun … he had made a robe for him that had hugged his body tightly, and that without having him try it even once. He could have maybe understood if the one sewing the robe had been an experienced seamstress but the dragon king who had only done things like this as a means of passing time? The implications of that … Jing He didn’t know what to make of them.

Qiu Ling saw that he was stunned and figured that it probably wasn’t about what he had just said. He thought for a moment and then realized that most likely, Jing He hadn’t quite understood his meaning before when he gave him the mask and robe even though he felt that he had tried to imply that he had made them himself. “I hope you’re not embarrassed at having worn them after you’ve come to know of this.”

Jing He was pulled out of his thoughts and hurriedly shook his head. “But no! Why would that be?”

Qiu Ling raised his brows and tilted his head. “Well, certainly, as your admirer, I had some ulterior motives when I made them.”

Jing He stared at him, spellbound. This was … This had really been admitted too easily, hadn’t it?

Qiu Ling just laughed though. “What? Do you want me to pretend that it was different? Believe me, when I planned that, I was thinking a lot about you. I was wondering what I would like to see on you, what would look good on you.

“Although the latter question is difficult to answer. There are many things you look good in. And admittedly, I sometimes wish that you would be a little less modest.” He gently let go of his hand and put it down on the blanket, patting it. “You like to even wear a coat over your outer robe, hiding that body of yours from … well, eyes. I am not thinking you’re doing it pacifically because of me but rather in general. It’s a pity, really. Because I like looking at you. And I really like looking some more. That robe that day … I will admit that I had ulterior motives when I designed it.”

Jing He felt like he should protest that thought. He should say that certainly, the dragon king would never do this. He was a gentleman and had just wanted to do him a favor and hadn’t intended anything else. But he couldn’t quite believe that when he looked into his eyes and then thought back to that day.

It hadn’t just been his own robe and mask, had it? No, there had also been Qiu Ling’s own get-up. The colors had fit together just like the design. It made them look just like a couple. And the story he had told to the people at the teahouse and even to his very own father, it had been quite the same.

He had called them lovers, fiances even, about to get married. Yes, clearly, this man had had his own motives. And with everything around them being so perfectly arranged, he had also had the opportunity to take a bit of advantage of him, hadn’t he? Most likely, if Longjun had that kind of intention with him, then his attempts had been a great success.

Qiu Ling saw as Jing He’s thoughts seemed to churn and kept quiet. He didn’t want to rush him but he did want him to realize. He wanted him to know that throughout all these years, even if he hadn’t realized, it had always been there.

He had always been going after him, always confessing his feelings, meaning every single word, trying to get close. He needed Jing He to realize that so he wouldn’t doubt anymore. Then, when that was clear, at least one worry would be taken off his shoulders.

And Jing He … he was indeed coming to that realization even though it was slow. He couldn’t quite understand it. In his own mind, even though he did as much as he could to fulfill his role and the expectations that his family, the dragon king, and everybody else in his life had of him, he still felt that he was sorely lacking.

He couldn’t believe that the dragon king would be this smitten with him. That he could put in so much effort to be with him. It just seemed … ludicrous. Yes, it seemed ludicrous that he would do something like this for a person like him. Somebody who might have the looks in the best case but not the personality or the charms to go along with them. He was … he wasn’t a very interesting person, was he?

Qiu Ling saw that after a moment of seeming torn, Jing He’s gaze darkened and not in a good kind. He hurriedly reached out before he even knew what he was doing and gripped his hand. “Did I go too far just now? Or rather … back then? You can tell me. That is what I meant before: If I cross a line, you can tell me. I do not want to force you.”

He wasn’t sure if he was doing the right thing but he felt that he was. In any case, he didn’t want to hold back. Not anymore, not if it would just cause misunderstandings between them. No, he wanted to be more obvious in the future.

But he also needed to give Jing He an out. He needed to give him the opportunity to pull back when he wanted or needed to. Because with how things were, even though Jing He clearly had feelings for him, even though Jing He obviously wanted this to go somewhere, there were still too many considerations that would make him worry.

So he had to have the ability to do something to get a break from things. As much as it pained him to have to pretend for even a moment that there wasn’t anything there, it was still best to pull back at the right time to be able to still stay around later.

Jing He looked at him, not quite sure if he was understanding what Qiu Ling was doing but he was glad that he was trying to think on his behalf. He smiled faintly and took another look at the bracelet before he gave it back and then just picked up the next thing which was a small statue once again. “Thank you, Longjun. But as for your intentions, it is not like my words would change anything.” He didn’t say anything else, not even wanting to.

To him, naturally, Qiu Ling’s motives were very welcome. But he could hardly say that so he would just pretend that he didn’t have any power over this man anyway and was completely helpless to do anything.

Qiu Ling looked at him, having a bit of a guess as to what Jing He was trying to do, and then just nodded, putting the bracelet where it had come from. He did intend to do as he had said though and get him something specifically for him in the future. Well, there were quite a few things he could do in the future. In any case, he would stay around so there were countless possibilities.

« ToC »

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