Qiu Ling stopped after the capital city was long out of sight. They had passed some nice scenery that would have been suitable for an outing as well but he had something very special planned.
The place where he finally stopped was the side of the river, not far from a small waterfall. Close to the capital city of the Nine Heavens, this was the most beautiful spot.
Of course, right now, it was still dark outside and the river and waterfall didn’t show their true beauty. Instead, they might seem somewhat dull, although the light of the stars glittering on the surface added a touch of etherealness. Either way, things would get more beautiful by the time the sun finally rose.
“We’re here.” Qiu Ling turned to Jing He. Usually, he would have used the opportunity to take his hand but he held back. He still needed to give Jing He some time to adapt.
Jing He looked around, not sure what to make of this. They seemed to be in the middle of nowhere even though they hadn’t flown for that long. The small cliff that the water fell from obstructed his view toward the city, not helping the impression.
Still, the starlight above was beautiful, the kind of scene he would have watched at night if he couldn’t fall asleep and wanted to calm his mind. The water did its part in creating a peaceful atmosphere, the sounds that entered his ears immediately soothing his heart.
If it was him, he couldn’t have picked a better place for an outing. This just went to show the dragon king’s splendid taste and also the care he put into everything he did for him.
Really, he shouldn’t judge what had happened yesterday too harshly. Anyway, wasn’t it more so his fault than Qiu Ling’s? The dragon king might have started it but he was the one who had failed to speak up and stop him in time. He couldn’t fault him for that, could he? No, he simply had to get a grip on himself in the future. Surely, he could do that. He just had to think of the consequences and he certainly wouldn’t overstep again.
Jing He calmed down and finally nodded. “It is a beautiful spot.”
Qiu Ling gave a hum and pulled out a blanket, spreading it on the ground. He made sure to put it a little further away from the water, afraid that it would make Jing He uncomfortable. He hadn’t forgotten what his beloved had told him the other day, after all. “Let’s sit?” He held out his hand out of habit, feeling regretful the moment it happened.
Jing He didn’t think too much about it though. Since he had taken his hand earlier and Qiu Ling had let go before they even left his palace, he didn’t feel any pressure. Maybe this had also become ingrained over the years and he was just so used to it that he wouldn’t think twice.
He reached out, put his hand in Qiu Ling’s, and allowed him to help him sit down. He took his hand back immediately and folded them in his lap though, not forgetting about his previous promise to himself.
Qiu Ling didn’t say anything and simply sat down next to him. Anyway, it was good enough that Jing He had been willing to accompany him despite yesterday’s situation. He wouldn’t ask for too much.
He took his sweet time taking out everything he had prepared. Actually, it wasn’t much. The idea for today wasn’t to stun him with what he could offer but with his genuineness. To express that … other things were more important.
Among the things he took out were a small table and a tea set. Setting down the pot of tea, he turned to Jing He and smiled. “I figured it might be slightly cooler so drinking some tea might feel comfortable. I am not sure if I managed to find something that fits your taste but I do hope so. Have a taste?”
Jing He nodded even though he felt on edge. He couldn’t stop thinking about yesterday. Why was Qiu Ling not saying a single thing about it? Did it really mean that little to him? But if that was the case, what was it that held no importance? Him losing his countenance or the kisses themselves?
He tightly grabbed the hem of his sleeve, feeling anxious. If it was the latter, then that had to mean that Qiu Ling didn’t feel as strongly about him as before. Why was that? Had he done something wrong? Maybe it actually was because he had allowed things to happen yesterday? Or could this still be about the other day when he got drunk? But then, after that, Qiu Ling had been different.
While Jing He worried by himself, Qiu Ling poured him a cup of tea, carefully handing it over. “It’s hot.”
Jing He was pulled out of his thoughts and hastily accepted the cup. “Thank you.” Actually, he didn’t feel cold. As a god, it wasn’t like the temperature meant much to him. But he did like that Qiu Ling had put so much thought into this outing. It seemed like a sign that he cared about him despite his changed demeanor.
Qiu Ling poured himself a cup as well, put down the pot, and looked out at the river. Actually, he could feel Jing He’s agitation. He didn’t get the reason though and thought that this was simply about how he had dared to kiss him yesterday.
He dwelt on that for a moment and finally sighed. “You know I love you.” He turned to look at Jing He whose expression had changed to one of surprise. Qiu Ling marveled at it before retracting his gaze. If he looked at him, he was afraid he wouldn’t be able to get any of this out. “I love you and I am quite honestly not as patient as I present myself to be.”
Jing He tightly held the cup in his hands, staring at Qiu Ling’s side profile intently. Was he really hearing this? It almost seemed as if Qiu Ling wanted to address all of his worries. His heart … it couldn’t help but flutter at these words.
Qiu Ling sighed again. “I want to be perfect for you. I want to give you the time you need to … come to terms with everything. But every now and then, I feel like I am getting nowhere. I feel like we are still as distant as we were six years ago and then I worry. I worry that this will never change and my dream of calling you mine one day won’t ever be fulfilled.” He turned to Jing He again, just giving him a quick glance. “I couldn’t live like that, Jing He.”
Jing He hastily lowered his own gaze, his heart beating even faster. Qiu Ling’s gaze just now had been so intense, he felt like he could still feel it burn on his skin.
Actually, Qiu Ling had turned back right away, not daring to watch Jing He’s reaction. Otherwise, he might just feel emboldened to do something outrageous again. “I should deal calmly with those moments but there is little that makes me less calm than my feelings for you. So sometimes, I can’t help but … want to prove to myself that this isn’t hopeless. And when I do, I overstep the boundaries you have set.”
Jing He wondered if now would be the time to say something, to reassure him. He didn’t want Qiu Ling to give up hope. Even if they couldn’t ever be together, he wanted him to stay close so he could at least see him every day or … often, at least. Unfortunately, he didn’t know what to say so he could only keep silent in the end.
Qiu Ling sighed deeply and put down his tea cup. “I know many things are different between our races. Maybe to you, six years of wooing you isn’t all that long.”
Jing He’s lips finally opened but he still hesitated. In the end, he simply shook his head. No, actually, six years wasn’t a short amount of time. It felt long but maybe this was also because those six years had been the most impactful of his life even compared to the two millennia he had already lived before. But then, how could he say that out loud?