RSH Stratagem 40: Make Memories for the Future! (4)

Jing He probably should’ve expected that this would be the outcome of what Qiu Ling said. After all, otherwise, why would he have mentioned the previous king and this person? Of course, there had to be something there. But somehow, he hadn’t managed to make the connection until Qiu Ling mentioned it.

He wasn’t sure what the reason was. Maybe being so close to Qiu Ling, lying there in this comfortable warmth, was affecting his mind. His thoughts just weren’t as fast as usual. They seemed slow, almost sluggish. He didn’t even want to think. He just quietly wanted to listen while Qiu Ling told him this story.

Qiu Ling sighed, more deeply this time, not sure what he should say next. It had all been so long ago but it still seemed unreal when he thought back now. He needed a moment to sort his thoughts before he continued. “I was surprised.

“Honestly, I wasn’t sure what to think about this. As I said before, I wasn’t necessarily the obedient type as a child. I had my own mind and I made a lot of trouble. My own father was often enough completely fed up with me.

“I guess Longjun Jinde just liked children a lot and couldn’t bring himself to hate me no matter how I behaved. Because of that, he was always the person I’d go to when I was in trouble. He would always protect me, even arguing with my father for me, and … well, my father could never talk back when it was him.

“But that’s not the point. Anyway, I don’t think I ever displayed the kind of behavior that the king of the dragon race should have. It’s not surprising, really. And even if I had, it shouldn’t matter.

“I was a literal child when we had seen each other the last time. Being so far from adulthood, there had been no way for him to figure out how I might turn out later on. After going away with my father and … his wife, there was a certain chance that I would turn into somebody very much unlike the child he remembered.

“All that time that passed, all the things that happened, all of it … it would have finally shaped me into the person I turned out to be and he knew nothing about that person. He hadn’t met me even once after I reached adulthood. It just didn’t make any sense for him to want me to be his successor.”

Jing He looked at him and finally couldn’t help but reach up and brush over Qiu Ling’s chest. “He put his trust in you. I can … I can see why.”

Qiu Ling lowered his gaze. Meeting Jing He’s eyes, he felt odd. That expression was not what he was used to from his beloved. Well, neither was the physical proximity. In the end, he just nodded and continued with his story. “I guess he did. He believed that I would be able to become the man he thought deserving of being king of the dragon king. I’m not sure if I lived up to his expectations. Back then, I sure didn’t believe it.”

He continued to brush over Jing He’s arm, remembering the day when Xin Lan had stood in front of him and told him about Jinde’s last wish. It was something that he had had trouble coming to terms with.

Even though it had been a long time since his parents’ death at that time, he still hadn’t gotten over the things that had happened that day. To lead the dragons not just in the war against the demons but as a race in general, that was something he just couldn’t imagine himself doing. So he had cussed him out and told him to leave in not the nicest of words. But, of course, that bastard hadn’t listened to him.

Qiu Ling naturally glossed over that conversation. “Well, I didn’t believe I would be able to do it so I declined. But the war with the demons had gotten worse. The demon king following after Jian Heng — Huo Yan — had declared war and started another battle that wasn’t any less perilous than the previous one. And, well, without a king on their side and with many lives having been lost in the war before, our people were at a disadvantage.

“I guess what finally convinced me to go with him was both my personal feelings for my predecessor and also the wish to keep as many of our people alive as I could.” And, well, maybe there had been a hint of a personal vendetta mixed into his decision but that was also something Jing He didn’t need to know.

“I didn’t want the demons to win. I wanted the dragons … to survive and to survive as the free people they were, not as slaves to somebody who saw us as less than.” His expression turned hideous for a moment and he needed to take a deep breath to calm himself down before he exposed something in front of Jing He that he shouldn’t.

“Anyway, when I went with him, I told him that I would not become their king, but that would help out in the war because that was something I could do. He seemed alright with that and I didn’t think about it any further. But, well, you can also see that that isn’t how things turned out.”

Jing He lowered his head again, which was lying on top of Qiu Ling’s chest by now, allowing him to listen to his heartbeat. It made him feel extremely calm, almost lulling him into sleep but he forced himself to stay awake and listen to what Qiu Ling was saying.

Qiu Ling was still quietly stroking his arm, not actually realizing that Jing He was almost drifting off. He just continued to talk in a low voice. “When we got there, what I saw was … pandemonium.

“The ground was …” He cleared his throat, not finishing that thought. He had wanted to describe the scene but then remembered how timid Jing He was. How could he tell him about the battlefield? No, it was better to understate things. “Things really weren’t looking good. I could understand just why he had come to see me. Without a leader, the dragons would have been lost.

“Even though I knew that I had no business doing it, I picked up the weapon that had been left by my father and headed into the fight. I killed demon king Huo Yan that day, causing confusion among the demons, and giving us an advantage. Then after that, the battle continued.

“I didn’t realize at the time that people were actually rallying behind me, following me and what I did. Even though I wasn’t giving any commands, they seemed to have accepted that whatever I was doing was what they should do as well.

“When the battle had finally ended, Xin Lan stepped out, taking out the edict that had been left behind by Jinde. He announced it to all the people still left on the battlefield and set in stone what I originally had refused to do.”

He fell silent and shook his head. “I will admit that back then, I wasn’t sure what to do. I didn’t think I could be king. I didn’t think I should be king. I just … had been an outsider for so long that I barely even saw myself as a part of the dragon race anymore.

“But seeing these people willing to swear their allegiance to me, I also had this faint hope that I could return to a normal life. Well, I clearly had no idea what being king was actually like.”

« ToC »

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