By the time the dragons had finally finished giving advice, Qiu Ling was happy but also felt like this might have been a bit too much effort for just one day. He should have scheduled a meeting with every single person over the course of several weeks to slowly get some input.
Actually, come to think of it, he should still do that. He pondered for a moment and finally nodded to himself. “I think I learned a lot today. Thank you for taking the time. You’ve missed out on quite a bit of the festival today but you have really done me a huge favor.”
The dragons actually didn’t mind at all. “Your Majesty, this is the celebration of the anniversary of your coronation. This festival, while it is certainly fun to attend, the most important part of it is honoring you as our king. And I think that I speak for all of us when saying that if there is something that we can do to directly help you — maybe not as our king but as a person — then that is making all of us incredibly proud. So really, you have given us a gift today when it should have been the other way around.”
Qiu Ling couldn’t help but smile. Actually, whether it was his advisers or his subjects, he wasn’t really close to either of them. But right now, he felt just a bit closer to them. And that was something he wouldn’t have expected to ever happen. He still had his doubts but, for the time being, this was something that was welcome.
“I hope you really do see it this way. In fact, if you do, then … might I be free to ask you for another favor? You don’t have to say yes. Don’t think of my status when I ask this and just consider whether you actually have the time and any interest in doing this.
“The thing is, while I have learned a lot today, most of that is still mere theory. You might’ve had me try some things but I’m afraid that it will take much more time until I am able to practice enough and figure things out for myself.
“To make a long matter short, I would like to give it a try and then see you again. Not … quite in the way we did it today. I feel like that would put a strain on all of you. But maybe — in a month or two — one of you could take some time each week or so to come to the palace or wherever it will work best for you, listen again, and give me some more feedback. Would that be alright with you?”
The musicians exchanged a glance, able to see in the eyes of the others that all of them were just as ecstatic as they themselves were.
“We would be honored if we could, Your Majesty.”
“Even if you asked us to meet every day, we’d still do it. I’m sure that you will be successful in wooing the son of heaven!”
“Right? I can’t believe that he still hasn’t fallen for Your Majesty! You think so highly of him, and you are clearly putting in a lot of effort. I’m sure that any dragon would have been moved by now.”
Qiu Ling smiled and got to his feet. “Well, I do think that I’m making progress on that front. But anyway, thank you very much. I assume that adviser An Bai will know who all of you are and where to find you. I’ll ask him to contact you when I would like to see you again. If you don’t have time on a specific day, please tell him and we can arrange an appointment that works for you. We’ll organize everything else around that.”
The dragons nodded as if they wanted to say that they had understood, but inwardly, they all thought that they would have to be nuts to say that they didn’t have time to meet the king and have him rearrange attending to his duties based on their schedule. Who exactly was the subject here?
But the fact that he offered this just showed once more how much of a splendid king he was. Really, after today, they had a whole new level of appreciation for him. And this was something that meant a lot considering that most dragons were already blindly worshiping their current king.
Qiu Ling nodded at the lot of them, and then bid his farewell before turning to leave.
Before he could step outside, one of the dragons rushed after him though, giving him a smile. This was the woman who had told him about her wife before. She had given him quite a lot of advice as well and made it a point to introduce herself. Apparently, her name was Yu Gan.
After having her be so open, he couldn’t help but have a good impression of her so Qiu Ling stopped and raised his brows at her, feeling that she probably wanted to say something. “What’s the matter, Yu Gan?”
“Your Majesty, I know that this isn’t my matter to get involved in but since I told you about my wife and that she tried the same strategy, maybe you would be interested in hearing what I have to say.”
Qiu Ling smiled. “Some free advice on how to win over the love of my life? I’d never say no to that.” He glanced at the city outside and then motioned at the platform outside the pavilion from which they could easily leave. “Are you going to stay in the pavilion or go out there?”
“My wife should be over at the Qing Song square so I wanted to go there.”
Qiu Ling nodded. “Then let’s leave together. You can tell me what you wanted to on the way. I’m supposed to bring my beloved something from the festival since he couldn’t attend so I still have to be on the lookout for that. It’s slowly getting late, so I should hurry with that.”
Yu Gan laughed and followed him down there, walking next to him through the streets while Qiu Ling looked around for a gift. “If you make promises such as that, then I guess my advice might not even be needed anymore. It seems that things are going rather well.”
Qiu Ling gave a hum, but he wasn’t quite sure how to answer that. Usually, he didn’t talk about these things. He just decided on things himself and only if there were specific questions he couldn’t deal with himself would he go and ask others. To get advice at the side … that was something that was new to him. But especially since this was the first time at this moment, and he’d probably only see Yu Gan one more time, it shouldn’t be that much of a problem.
Thinking of that, he slowed down and turned to her. “I don’t know. You see, for me, it was love at first sight. No, not even just that. I was smitten with him the moment I heard him talk. That was before he turned around and I saw him. Jing He is a beauty, nobody would dare to say otherwise. Anyway, I would have married him then and there, no questions asked.”
Yu Gan smiled, not that surprised. “Well, I can’t say that I’m surprised. These kinds of feelings, they’re not that rare, are they? For us dragons, we just are like that. One moment can be enough for an eternity.
“It wasn’t quite as fast for my wife and me but she didn’t see me that much more often. Maybe a handful of times. That was enough for her as well.”
There was a hint of pain in Qiu Ling’s eyes when he listened to that and he sighed. “Well, how long did it take you to requite her feelings? I guess she had to put in quite a bit of work as well.”
“She did. I think it was about a year before I finally said yes to her. I had slowly started to feel more for her but, at that time, I was sure of that. And that is why I finally made my decision to go further forward with our relationship.”
Qiu Ling gave another hum, looking over the things that were offered at the stalls at the side of the road, his thoughts traveling to all the time he had spent trying to woo his beloved. “A year … You know, originally, I thought that things would go fast. I am …
“You know, I guess I think quite highly of myself. In terms of status, in terms of looks, in terms of strength, you will not find many men in the immortal realms that could beat me. Not in either of these things and not to mention all three of them combined. I would have thought that — even if it was outside of our race — I would be able to win a person over fast.
“I guess that isn’t how feelings work. It’s been four years by now, almost five. I while I d see some progress and think that he actually likes me, I don’t think it’s enough yet.” He turned back to her and noticed that there was a hint of pity in her eyes. “Oh, don’t look at me like that. I’m already feeling a lot of pity for myself. I’m trying but it’s not working. And lately, I feel like I’m doing everything wrong.
“He is a god, not a dragon. At first, I had trouble adjusting to that. I was too fast in my approach, too … forceful. And I think that scared him a lot. I set myself back from ‘handsome stranger who might be a possible marriage candidate’ to ‘definitely-do-not-marry’-territory.
“I know that. And I worked long and hard to reverse that impression. I’ve explained to him about the differences between our races and I think that with time, he started to be more comfortable around me.
“But then, it seemed to get too much. I think he … he feels torn about this. Which still might have to do with the fact that I’m a dragon. I think he does feel that it is to be expected that he marries inside his own race which I can understand.”
He shook his head and strolled over to the other side of the street, still not satisfied with anything he had seen so far. “I know I don’t need to tell this to a dragon but I’ve reigned for a long time. Despite that, nobody is worried about me not having any children or a person at my side to give me any because it doesn’t matter to us. If I go one day, somebody else will be chosen. That is how it is done, and how it has always been done.
“But it is different for the gods. They reign by virtue of their blood, of their heritage, not necessarily their ability. Although I guess all of the heirs are raised to be excellent rulers for their people. Jing He is living proof of that. He will make a splendid Heavenly Emperor one day.
“Still, that does come with some expectations. And I’m afraid that throwing some dragon blood into the mix another generation down the line isn’t necessarily what they are looking forward to. So my chances — no matter how he feels about me — are actually quite slim.”