By this time, the musicians that had gathered in the pavilion were already shocked silly. While all of them admired their king for his prowess in battle and the fact that he had managed to establish peace for such a long time, they couldn’t say that they believed that he had much of an interest in music.
It wasn’t strange. This was something that was true for most dragons. It couldn’t be used in a fight and while it might be something interesting to pass some time, it wasn’t worthwhile to pursue to mastery for most of them. Music, to most of the dragon folk, was merely entertainment and would never go further than that. Their king naturally wasn’t an exception.
At the very least, they had always believed so until now. For the previous anniversaries of his coronation, while he might’ve sat through a song or two, he had never shown much interest. But today, not only had he had them gather in a specific building for this, he had even stayed around for all of them to play once.
Yes, it might not have been the song that they had originally chosen to present, but it was something that the king had specifically requested. That alone seemed to show that somehow, since the last time there was a big celebration for the anniversary of his coronation, there had been a change in his feelings regarding this art that they loved.
Nobody said so out loud, but some couldn’t help but think to themselves that maybe this had to do with the king’s private life. When a dragon fell in love, their feelings were usually like a tempest that swept through their lives, laying waste to everything the person had believed to know about themselves.
When falling for someone, even the toughest warrior might discover their heart for art and poetry, trying to serenade their beloved with a new verse or a composition every day, while a scholar might suddenly pick up a sword to demonstrate the recipient of their affection that they were worthy of them and fight off anyone who dared to compete with them.
Surely, the king wasn’t any different. And everyone knew that he was pursuing the Son of Heaven and had been doing so for quite some time. Maybe while doing so, he had discovered that music could be a language of its own, and one that might be quite suitable to woo a god.
If that was the truth, then he would probably develop a new appreciation for this skill that they thought of highly, especially if this attempt proved to be successful. That was definitely something that they were looking forward to.
And who knew? The Son of Heaven was rumored to be a bit of a scholar himself, somebody interested in the fine arts, in music as well as everything else. Even if he might not be specialized in anything, he had a rudimentary understanding of how to play and would probably enjoy a display like this a lot. So maybe that had also influenced the king and caused his taste to become more refined.
After having gotten through the first part, they all looked at the king with a faint feeling of excitement, wondering what would happen next.
Qiu Ling gave a hum, quite satisfied with what he had been able to achieve. “Very well. This was really enjoyable. I’m sorry for springing this on you last minute but I think that you all did very well. Now, since you’ve prepared specifically for this event, I won’t keep you from presenting what you originally wanted to.” Saying so, he glanced toward the window. “It is somewhat getting late though.
“I would suggest that we limit this to a few players per group who would like to present something to me personally. For the rest, Scholar An Bai should arrive shortly. I’m not ashamed to admit that he has a much better understanding of music than I do so presenting to him will likely get you more appreciation.” He gave a faint smile at that, feeling that it was something he could say without pressure since there weren’t any of the gods around. Ah, he really still had a lot to learn!
The dragons inclined their heads, not too surprised. Anyway, they had all been allowed to play once in front of him. And since it had been an easy one, all of them had done fairly well even without much preparation. Now, a few would be able to even present a second song. This was a lot more than in previous years.
The dragons discussed for a moment, hurrying up so they wouldn’t waste their king’s time. Finally, the ones who were supposed to present stepped forward, and the pavilion quieted down.
Once again, the players of the same instrument always went after each other before the next group would start.
Qiu Ling didn’t mind either way and listened carefully, trying to remember all of the songs. This time, he was having more trouble. He wasn’t some kind of natural talent in music. That much he already knew after several weeks of trying his best.
If he heard the same song often enough, then he wouldn’t have trouble remembering it. But after only hearing it once, that was something he wasn’t able to do. He might be able to keep parts of them in mind but that wasn’t enough to impress his beloved, was it?
And there also wasn’t much that he could learn from. Even when it came to the players of the huqin, he had to say that he didn’t benefit from this as much as he had from the previous round. On the one hand, this was indeed sad, on the other, he congratulated himself on his quick thinking before he let them start playing whatever songs they wanted. At the very least, he was now able to remember a few simple melodies. That wasn’t much but it was better than nothing.
Well, notwithstanding what exactly he had learned, there was one experience that was probably the most important: He realized that he wouldn’t be able to play in front of his beloved anytime soon if he didn’t want to completely embarrass himself.
He had thought that if he put his mind to it and practiced a lot for a couple of weeks, then he would be able to make progress by leaps and bounds. And, well, from the time when he had not had any idea at all what he was even doing to now where he was able to at least accurately play specific notes if he focused enough, he had indeed made some progress. But it wasn’t as much as he had hoped it would be by far. That became clear when he heard just what these musicians were able to do.
When he put himself in their stead, he might be able to play some of the simple songs. Not immediately but if he practiced for a bit, he was sure that he would be able to do it. But these more complicated ones, it was absolutely impossible.
Some of the melodies were much too quick, not allowing him to think for even a moment to figure out which note to play after which and how he would have to move to make this possible himself. So no, this wasn’t possible for him.
And while he felt that Jing He was somebody who wouldn’t look down on someone who didn’t know how to play an instrument because they never learned, he had stupidly told him that he was able to do so. And with the way he had done it, it had clearly sounded as if he knew exactly what he was doing. Now, even if he managed to learn one of the simple songs, he was afraid it wouldn’t be enough. Instead, he would just embarrass himself.
By the time the musicians had all finished playing, Qiu Ling clicked his tongue and could only sigh.
This reaction startled the dragons, making them unsure if they had just done something wrong. They didn’t feel like that was the case but somehow, the dragon king didn’t seem as happy as he had before. Nobody really dared to ask though.
Qiu Ling kept quiet for a moment and then figured that he probably couldn’t keep them waiting any longer. These people were looking as if they were quite on edge. He turned to the huqin players and gave a bright smile. “The three of you, could you do me a favor?”
The players immediately straightened up, not quite sure what to expect. But anyway, a favor didn’t sound too bad. If it was the king, naturally, they would do it!
They hastily promised, and Qiu Ling nodded and motioned up to the ceiling. “In that case, please wait for a moment on the second story. You can make yourself comfortable.”
While three of them looked startled, he looked at the other players and pointed out another four whose performance he had really liked before. “Could I ask the four of you to do the same?”
The dragons hastily nodded and then rushed to gather their instruments, and followed the other three up there. When they arrived, they couldn’t help but all exchange glances, sitting down in a small group.
To be asked for something by the king, that was an honor, but at the same time, it was also something that made them anxious. Who knew what it was that he wanted? Was it something that they would be able to do? Somehow, they felt pressured.