On the upper floor, the dragons had gone silent when their king walked in. They had been nervous the whole time since being asked to go up there and the longer they waited, the worse it had become.
Now that he was finally here, they probably should’ve been relieved but they had already built this whole matter up in their minds so much that it was hard to suddenly stop worrying. Thus, they just stared at him with wide eyes, clearly anxious.
Qiu Ling stopped in his tracks when he saw those gazes directed at him. He … might have worried his subjects a bit.
Thinking for a moment, he finally shook his head and walked over, sitting down in front of them. “Relax. It’s not whatever you’re thinking. Actually, there isn’t much just that I would like to have a bit of a chat with you.”
The dragons exchanged glances, not quite sure what exactly ‘having a chat’ referred to when it was the king telling that to some of his subjects. It definitely didn’t seem like it could be as easy as if somebody else said that.
Qiu Ling also realized that his words weren’t having the effect he had hoped for so he finally sighed and leaned back. “Alright, let me be straightforward: It is no secret that I have fallen in love with the Son of Heaven. And I may be worried that he doesn’t requite my feelings the way that I had hoped him to despite me trying my best for several years.”
At that, some of the tension finally left the musicians. Alright, maybe when the king said that he wanted to have a chat, he had really meant just that. They had indeed overthought things.
Seeing that they were calming down, Qiu Ling also figured that he was going about this the right way and continued in the same manner. “Well, what am I to say? A person in love is desperate. And in an attempt to seem a little more interesting to him, I might have … bent the truth a little. Or maybe it wouldn’t be wrong to say that I outright lied.”
His subjects weren’t sure how to react to that, especially since he still hadn’t asked them a single question. They couldn’t just interject an opinion now, could they?
Qiu Ling smiled when he saw their careful gazes and actually wanted to laugh. “Well, I’m sure you have questions. Such as ‘What might he have said?’, or maybe ‘What are we supposed to do about that?’. They’re both very valid. Let me answer them one after the other.
“As you can imagine, this has something to do with music. I do know that Jing He very much enjoys these things and when he asked me about my abilities, I might’ve pretended that I knew how to play an instrument. But I don’t. I have since tried learning but it proves to be a little more difficult than I had imagined.
“Now, that brings us to today and what you can do for me. I have coincidentally figured that I like bowed instruments a little more than the rest so that is what I’ve been working on for the past few … weeks.”
Whatever tension had been left in the dragons, finally left their bodies. Teaching the king how to play an instrument? Well, that was something they could actually do!
One of them was a little more daring and cleared her throat. “Well, if it will help Your Majesty to know this, my wife tried the same thing with me.”
Qiu Ling couldn’t help but smile. So it turned out he actually wasn’t that strange in that regard. “Oh? So how did that work out for her?”
The musician smiled, seeming to find this question quite funny. “Well, since I said she was my wife, it seems to have gone quite well.”
“Does that have to do with her musical talent or …?”
The musician raised a hand to her mouth and tried to hide her laugh. “Well, it would be wrong to say that she managed to serenade me in any way but knowing that she paid attention to what I liked and being willing to give that a try impressed me quite a bit indeed. And it was something that brought us closer together after some time.”
Qiu Ling leaned to the side and cupped his cheek, nodding faintly. “Adviser An Bai said something rather similar. I sure hope the two of you are right. Anyway, I didn’t really want to say that in front of everyone else and I definitely don’t want to give a demonstration in front of everyone else but I do guess I will need to give one here if you are to give any kind of advice.
“What I want from you is pointing out to me whatever it is not that I’m doing wrong and maybe giving me some hints as to how I could improve. Time isn’t necessarily of the essence. I haven’t promised anything in terms of when I will demonstrate for him but there might be some time. So don’t feel the need to rush it. I merely need a way forward because just doing it on my own doesn’t really seem like a good way of improving further than I have so far.”
The dragons nodded, actually looking a bit eager.
Qiu Ling gave a hum and then took out the huqin An Bai had given him that day, actually looking a bit nervous for once. “I’m warning you that I am likely not good even for a beginner. Adviser An Bai explained a few things to me at the beginning but other than that, I have been trying on my own. So I’ve not had any kind of guidance for this and it might show.”
“Don’t worry about it, Your Majesty. Anyway, in the beginning stages, there will always be things that go wrong but there will also be enough time to work on that.”
Qiu Ling nodded and then focused on the instrument in his hands, as well as trying to remember the simple song that the musicians had played before. Thinking for a moment and narrowing his eyes, he gave it a try himself.
The musicians watched closely, their expressions showing a bit of surprise when they realized just was he was playing. When Qiu Ling had finished, all of them kept quiet as if nobody wanted to be the first one to say anything.
Qiu Ling chuckled and put the instrument to the side, leaning back and crossing his legs. “Don’t be polite with me. This is something I genuinely want to learn. I know there are … issues and a lot I have to work on. it would be much easier for me if somebody points out to me what exactly that is. So please do not hold back.”
The others exchanged glances and finally, the woman who had spoken up before was the first one to go ahead now as well. “Your Majesty, for that, may I ask why you chose this song to play?” Because it hadn’t sounded as if he was that familiar with it. In fact, she wasn’t sure if he had ever played it before.
Qiu Ling gave a wry smile and thought for a moment how he was supposed to explain that. “Well … This might surprise you but, to be honest, it is the only one that I know.
“When I grew up, it was a different time. And for most of my life, I was embroiled in the war. Music really wasn’t one of my priorities so I can’t say that I know very much about it. I genuinely do not know how to play any other song. In fact, I didn’t know this one either until you played it earlier. That was why I asked for that in the first place.”
At that, the other dragons couldn’t help but exchange another glance. This … was not what they had expected. But if he explained it like this, it actually made sense.
Yes, where would he have learned? There had been many things to do for him, especially since he became king and he had been king for a long time. Where would he take the time to listen to music or learn how to play? And to be honest, for somebody who only started learning a few weeks ago and without much guidance, he wasn’t that bad.
Feeling some compassion for his plight, suddenly, all the dragons rushed ahead, pointing things out. From the way he held the instrument and the bow, to the speed at which he played, the notes he had played wrong, and how to pick up more songs in a short amount of time, there really were tips on anything.
Qiu Ling was surprisingly patient with them. Usually, they would not have expected that somebody in his position would be willing to sit through something like this. And maybe if it had been about anything else, Qiu Ling also wouldn’t have had the patience. But since this was something that he was doing for Jing He, he was willing to do anything.
Even if it took the whole day, even if it was strenuous, and he sometimes felt that there were too many details to actually take note of, he’d still try his best. For his beloved, nothing was too difficult.
And at the very least, when it came to playing an instrument, he was sure that no matter whether he had the talent or not, as long as he put in the effort, as long as he listened well when he was given advice, and then followed that, he would be able to make it work. And that … that was the most important.