Yu Gan turned to glance at the king before turning back to look at the curtain again. It was a little strange to speak to the Son of Heaven without being able to see him but still, since he was the one she was supposed to play for, she’d rather hear his opinion. “Well then, is there anything you would like to hear specifically?”
Jing He took a moment to consider. “Specifically … I don’t think there is a specific song but I would be very happy if you could play something that was native to the dragon realm. I’m sure there will be some songs that are popular or hold a special meaning to the dragons.”
Yu Gan lowered her head, hiding a smile. The king might have had his doubts about how far he had really gotten in wooing the Son of Heaven but hearing this request, she was sure that he was further than he believed.
Surely, he wouldn’t have made this request if he didn’t care about their king, would he? No, in that case, he would’ve just told her to choose herself. Instead, he had asked for this, as if he wanted to know more about their race and maybe even their king.
Looking at things from that perspective, Yu Gan also had a good idea of what exactly to play. Picking up her instrument, she looked back up and figured that she should give an explanation. “If that is so, then let me start with something that is reminiscent of what happened on this day so many years ago. Your Highness might know how our current king came to be in power?”
Jing He glanced at Qiu Ling and then gave a faint hum. “I heard that Longjun was able to end the war with the demons.”
“Yes, that is it. He was the one who gave us hope in that difficult time. And even though many of the songs from that time were lost in the aftermath of the war, a few have survived. Some were found in parts at least and we restored them to what we believe they might have once been.
“The song I want to play is precisely one of those. More than half of the original version has been passed down over time. But for a few verses, we’ve had to make some guesses as to how it was originally meant to be played. What we came up with is how the dragons have been playing this song for a long time now. I hope that Your Highness will like this song.” With that, she started to play.
Jing He held onto Qiu Ling’s hand, listening intently. He knew about Qiu Ling’s history. Not too much, but at least a little. There were still more things that he had never heard about but he hoped that this would change with time. To hear somebody of the dragon race voice their emotions regarding this king of theirs — even if it was just in a song — that was an opportunity he cherished.
Yes, he wanted to hear this. He wanted to see just how the dragons saw the man he loved. He wanted to know what they thought of him, what he really meant to them. It might be similar to what he himself felt for the dragon king. At the very least, that seemed to be likely.
The song originally started out slow, sounding like a lament. Jing He wasn’t sure if he understood at first but thinking back, he remembered that the war had started just after the old king died. The dragons had been mourning him. That should be what this part of the song was about.
He wasn’t sure if he imagined it but, for a moment, Qiu Ling’s grasp on his hand seemed to tighten. Jing He glanced over, trying to figure out from his expression what he was thinking but actually found it to be blank.
His thoughts almost drifted off but then, the melody picked up, turning into a tune that spelled chaos and fear, the loss of hope. It almost seemed as if this was the end of the dragon race’s people.
Listening to this made his heart beat faster and inspired the very same feeling in him. He had grown up in peace. He didn’t know what war was like. But he did know how it was to feel insecure, to fear for your life. These were things he had personally experienced when he was young.
The song seemed to pull him back to that time, wrapping him in desperation, making him unable to breathe, and for a moment, he didn’t know how to cope.
Just when he wanted to ask her to stop, he felt Qiu Ling’s thumb brush over the back of his hand. He looked over there and it felt like all those worries stopped existing. What anxiety? What fear? With this man at this side, he didn’t need to feel either way.
The tension left his body and he took a faint breath, his mind returning to calmness. Glancing at the curtain that separated them, Jing He reached out with his other hand, using it to hold onto Qiu Ling as well.
Oh, he knew he shouldn’t. But what did it matter? This woman, she could not see it. The only ones who would know were him and the dragon king. And anyway, he was sick, what if he got scared and felt faint? Why shouldn’t he search for something or someone to hold onto then? Yes, this was not wrong. It was the expected course of action.
On the other side, Qiu Ling looked at the curtain with some worry. He had also wanted to ask Yu Gan to stop after he had felt Jing He’s agitation. But after his beloved reached out, it seemed that he had already calmed down a little. Qiu Ling wasn’t completely sure what to make of that. He was still worried but it seemed that there was no reason to overreact. Yes, he could at least give this a moment longer.
At that time, the melody changed once again. Suddenly, there was order to the chaos, just a single ray of light in all the darkness, shining upon a path that could lead them to their future. Step-by-step, bit by bit, the clouds above parted, and more light spilled down, illuminating the way forward.
Finally, they could see their destination in front of them. It was still in the distance, it was still nothing more but a faraway goal that they hoped to reach one day. But it was enough. In these troubled times, it was enough.
It made them feel as if they were safe, as if they were being guided. That alone was enough to not make some despair. So they walked forward until they reached that future, the one that had been taken from them with the old king’s death, and that had been gifted to them once again when the new king took over.
Yes, the dragons had survived all thanks to this man. He had lent them his strength, he had brushed away the despair and given them hope. And because of that, he would forever have their gratitude and loyalty.
The song came to an end and Yu Gan looked up, feeling that she had done quite well. In fact, this was probably the best rendition she had ever played of this song. Unfortunately, there was no way to see what the Son of Heaven thought with his figure being obscured like this. Thus, she could only wait for what he might say.
Jing He stayed quiet for a long time, needing to sort himself. He was still holding onto Qiu Ling’s hand. But at this moment when the music wasn’t playing any longer, he felt odd about it. He pondered if he should let go but he didn’t want to so he just pretended that he had forgotten about it and continued to hold onto it.
Instead, he focused on Yu Gan. “That was a beautiful song. I feel like it makes what has happened in the past almost palpable. I also see why you said that it was connected to this very day. A pity that the original version was lost, although this one is very good indeed. I wouldn’t be able to say for sure which parts were added later on.”
Yu Gan inclined her head and smiled. “I am glad that Your Highness liked it.” She hesitated for a moment and then glanced at the king again, wanting to get some hint as to what she was supposed to do. She wouldn’t mind playing more but she also knew that the Son of Heaven was sick. It was very well possible that he wouldn’t be able to sit through more than one song.
Qiu Ling only noticed her gaze after a while and raised his brows before he turned back to Jing He. “Well, do you want to hear something else? Maybe … something a little softer?”
Jing He’s hands trembled and Qiu Ling used the opportunity to turn his hand around, taking both of them into his. He really would’ve liked to reach in with his other hand as well but he knew that Jing He would find it indecent, especially in front of an outsider.
Holding onto his hand with both of his was already a big gift that he had probably only gotten thanks to the fact that Yu Gan couldn’t see through the curtain. Well, in that regard, he could only congratulate himself that he had had the wise foresight to pull it close.
Jing He calmed down when Qiu Ling held his hands like this and nodded faintly. “If you still have time, that would be lovely.”
Yu Gan inclined her head and then raised her bow again, thinking for a moment “Well, in that case, let me play something that is even older than the previous song. It can be considered somewhat of a classic in the dragon realm. Thankfully, it has been preserved through time. It tells a story of the previous king and the time when he was still young.”