RSH Stratagem 43: Be a Little Daring (1)

Qiu Ling received the news that Jing He had woken up when he was already halfway through his musings. He heaved a sigh of relief, told the messenger to give his thanks to the God of War, and then went on his merry way to plan the next outing he could suggest to Jing He. Only when he was sure that he had organized everything perfectly did he return to the dragon realm and waited for the next morning.

At that time, Jing He had gotten up but he was slower than usual, barely having put on his robe and sitting in front of his dressing table in a daze. He was trying to do his hair but his thoughts always slipped away to the previous day, conjuring up that feeling of lying in Qiu Ling’s arms. It made him question what had really happened after he became drunk.

It was precisely this scene that Qiu Ling saw when he appeared at the door to the garden. He stopped in his tracks and tilted his head, just allowing himself to enjoy the sight for a moment. Noticing that his beloved didn’t seem like he would continue anytime soon, he faintly cleared his throat.

Jing He was startled out of his thoughts and looked up. Seeing Qiu Ling, he was startled once again and hurriedly got to his feet. “Longjun.”

Qiu Ling smiled when Jing He reverted to his title once again and motioned over to him. “Mind if I come in? Or is it a bad time?” Jing He might be dressed but he also knew that he was particular. He might want to finish up alone.

Jing He didn’t know how to respond. He indeed worried about how it would look if he finished arranging his hair in front of Qiu Ling. But then, he also owed him an apology and he didn’t think he should wait. In the end, he felt tangled up, and just like before, he more or less stood there in a daze, not knowing how to proceed.

Qiu Ling faintly raised his brows and then decided not to care any longer. He stepped in and went over, reaching up to brush Jing He’s hair back. “It seems there is something on your mind?”

Jing He hesitated for another moment but then nodded. “Yesterday … I hope I did not offend you.”

Qiu Ling’s gaze softened and he shook his head. “No, you definitely didn’t. Actually, I have to apologize. Your uncle probably told you but I gave you the wrong wine. No wonder you got drunk.”

Jing He nodded but he didn’t think that it was Qiu Ling’s fault. No, how could he ever fault him for anything? In his mind, even if it hadn’t been the wine Qiu Ling had originally picked, he still should have been able to take it. “I hope I didn’t behave indecently.”

Qiu Ling gave a hum that sounded more thoughtful than affirming.

Jing He raised his gaze, his eyes wide. Had he … had he indeed behaved indecently?

Qiu Ling looked at his startled eyes and couldn’t help but feel that he was cute. He sighed and then reached up again, brushing his cheek with the back of his fingers this time. “You didn’t but … I sure would have welcomed that.”

Jing He’s face flushed at once and he retracted his gaze, almost wanting to turn away to hide his expression. His whole body felt as if it stood in flames at those suggestive words.

Qiu Ling slowly retracted his hand, wondering if that had been too far. He had thought that he should up his game but maybe he should have done so more carefully? Although then again, he had suggested going to the hot springs just a few days ago …

He cleared his throat again and motioned to the dressing table. “That’ll have to stay a dream. Anyway, I believe I interrupted you while you were doing your hair. Maybe you’d like to finish that up? I could help if you wanted any.” He gave him a questioning look, half-hoping that Jing He would indeed agree. He knew Jing He was likely to reject his offer but he truly loved his hair. Getting the opportunity to help him with that … he sure wouldn’t complain about it.

Jing He had already lowered his head as far as he could, unable to look at Qiu Ling any longer. Still, the dragon king was standing so close that he felt incredibly aware of his presence or maybe that was just a general problem because of his feelings. “I … I will hurry up.”

He turned away and sat down, taking the comb with trembling fingers. His mind still echoed the words Qiu Ling had just said: I sure would have welcomed that.

Of course, Qiu Ling had suggested similar things before but it felt like it had been a long time since he was that obvious about it. He wasn’t sure what to make of that. If it had been last year, he might have wondered if it was a last-ditch effort before he gave up. But right now, he actually felt quite reassured that Qiu Ling wouldn’t entertain the idea of simply leaving. No, rather than that … had he given him the impression that he would be open to that?

Jing He’s fingers stilled while the comb was only halfway down the strand of hair. Maybe he hadn’t behaved indecently according to the standard of the dragon race but he still might have let some of his true thoughts slip? It was entirely possible.

Qiu Ling eyed his beloved and leaned closer when he saw him pause again. “Have you reconsidered?”

Jing He was pulled out of his thoughts once again but wasn’t sure what Qiu Ling meant. He raised his head to look at him, seeming much too guileless.

Qiu Ling stared right back and told himself not to make a mistake now. He still reached out and pulled the comb out of Jing He’s hands, using the opportunity to pick up a strand of his hair and comb it himself. “It’s been some time but I guess if it’s your first time getting drunk, it might be difficult to bear with even the next day.”

Jing He sat in stunned silence, unable to requite a single word. He was much too aware of Qiu Ling’s hands that were gently grabbing his hair, following the length of every strand while he combed it. It felt … very reassuring.

Qiu Ling glanced at the water mirror Jing He had originally condensed, catching a glimpse of his expression before he retracted his gaze. “I’m not sure how much you actually remember from what I told you yesterday but that day when I went out to drink that first time? Believe me, it wasn’t pretty either.”

Jing He did indeed remember that story in full. Finally having the opportunity to not let the silence stretch out, he naturally caught onto it. “How so?”

“Mn … I didn’t know how to drink. I was a child when I left the capital and my parents died young. Where would I have gotten my hands on alcohol? So even though I was an adult at that time, I was … not sure what to expect.

“The problem with a dragon’s constitution is that it doesn’t hit you immediately. At first, you hardly feel it. So you drink some more. And then, bit by bit, you get so drunk you don’t know east from west. I was … I was in that kind of situation.”

Jing He smiled faintly. Qiu Ling really had a way of making him feel at ease. “So what did you do?”

Qiu Ling gave another hum. “Well, I am actually not too sure of that. But I got a lot of pitying looks the next day.” Back then, he had felt mortified. Nowadays, he didn’t care too much. He liked to complain when he was drunk and usually even tearfully. It was the kind that really made people feel a headache.

Not just that but, apparently, he was also unreasonable. Although then again, that had been told to him by people he usually pretended to be unreasonable in front of anyway so he wasn’t sure how much he should believe it. Maybe this was actually his drunk personality and the subconscious inspiration had come from that very first day of drinking too much.

He quietly combed the rest of Jing He’s hair, then went on to style it in the way he liked. Anyway, if he had the opportunity, why shouldn’t he take full advantage of it? Meanwhile, he gave Jing He another glance through the water mirror. “When it comes to you though …”

Jing He also glanced at the mirror, their gazes meeting and making both of them pause.

“What … what about me?” Jing He’s voice sounded breathless and a lot quieter than he had intended, making his cheeks flush red again.

Qiu Ling continued to look at him unabashedly. “You’re cute when you get drunk. The kind of cute that makes one want to take advantage.”

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