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that mockingbird don't sing

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Xiao Jingrui is the current leader of the Langya Hall's list of Most Eligible Omegas. Talented, charming, comely of face, he has inherited one mother's royal poise and the other her strength of bearing. Xiao Jingrui wants for nothing with two powerful fathers and thus he is going to resolutely refuse to answer Yujin’s probing, kindly(?) meant as it is.

“Jingrui! Jingrui c’mon it's me,” Yujin is employing his most annoying tone, high and comically nasally, pitched exactly like the tea maiden they met last week with the most unfortunate voice, “Tell me what's wrong? Jingrui? Jingjing? Jingruirui? Jing–”

“Stop mocking my name!” Jingrui finally laughs, annoyed out of his ennui by Yujin, who is now attempting to pinch his cheeks.

“Just tell master Yujin here all your ails! Such genius from I, the third place on Langya Hall’s list of Talented–”

Please just end me instead.”

“Aye! Such words! You would wound I, your closest bosom friend, what kind of gentleman omega are you, huh?”

At the mention of omega, Jingrui stops slapping at Yujin's hands, and pauses instead to look at him, the words stuck in his throat. Yujin's eyes narrow; a hawk finally spotting prey.

“It's about him again, isn't it?” he sighs, and finally sits down next to Jingrui on the stone bench. “I know he's a very accomplished man, and… and I've seen your doe eyed look when he's near,” he huffs, and pokes at Jingrui's furrowed brow, “Are you… hoping he'll have you? He is an alpha of great renown, I understand if,” here Yujin takes and holds one of his hands close, between the warmth of both of his own, “I understand you might, feel strongly? For him?”

Jingrui wouldn’t be able to bear it if there's pity in Yujin's eyes, so he quickly looks away out at the garden, the pond nearby, anything other than his friend. He whole body feels suddenly exposed under the bright daylight, as if Yujin's queries somehow will drag his truly useless feelings out for the whole of the city to see. Jingrui may be a fool, but even he can tell Sir Mei clearly has no interest in him.

There's a long pause between them now, and as Jingrui contemplates how to answer Yujin without feeling embarrassingly pathetic he suddenly stands, dragging Jingrui with him and proclaiming loudly that this is boring, and also, melodramatic; let's go sightseeing.

Yujin always knows without telling how Jingrui is feeling, he truly is the best of friends.

 


 

The Qilin Talent has been in the city for a better part of a year now, and Jingrui has the rare luck of finding Mei Changsu alone and reading casually in one of his newly built garden pavilions. As he bows and sits the waft of medicine and alpha scent bathes gently over him as Sir Mei bows gracefully in a return greeting.

Here, at his house and in his elegant garden he offers Jingrui a cup of tea and a quiet refuge to read his own selection of books, away from the loving but sometimes overbearing clamoring of his two families and various relatives as they prepare for the party (his party, his birthday, though he really sometimes just wishes they wouldn’t–).

Yujin is busy today delivering something for his father, and won't be free for some time.

Sir Mei occasionally pauses his own study and asks him questions about what he's reading, and they wind up debating again on various moral philosophies. He answers honestly and is teased lightly for it but he can't help but feel strongly on topics of what, Sir Mei likes to say, are heroic ideals, stoically noble and unnecessarily stubborn. He smiles every time he says it, and likes to blame Jingrui's role models for filling his head with such stories.

 

Jingrui would like to stay here, in this little pocket of heaven under a rainy eave, carefully held under water in this gentle fiction of intimacy.

 

He would like to be braver perhaps, and ask the lovely Sir Mei if he would, pray tell, like him better as his omega. Or maybe if he were smarter, he'd know who to ask, how to ask, about this. What it might take to catch someone like Sir Mei’s eye.

He sometimes wishes he were still a young boy, back when feelings were simpler; the world more complete and easy to parse. He wishes he could ask Lin gege, who was also an omega and clever as anything, or Ni-huang jiejie, a newly presented alpha, bright and confident with it. Even now after years of distance and the long frozen wasteland of the Chiyan Army he would ask Jingyan gege, who was their intermediary beta; gentler, patient, and had a soft spot that Yujin would exploit mercilessly, much to Lin gege’s jealous consternation.

But he and Yujin have long grown to understand the missing people in their lives can no longer be asked after. That they are old enough now, to know the burden of maturity (of death). As the fortunate son who not only has the Emperor’s very name – but none of his fathers – isn’t it only right that Jingrui is the top of Langya Hall’s list, for with all the resources at his disposal, would it not be shameful to not be?

He has no right, none at all, to ask for more (to ask for less).

So, Jingrui will continue to make his family proud as he grows older, even if he has to ignore the weird, absurd, shapeless hole in him, like something was carved out in his youth before. He doesn’t even understand what it is he’s missing.

Perhaps it is this questionable loss then, that makes Jingrui long fruitlessly and quietly at people beyond his reach. He gave up following after Jingyan gege, who got colder and more distant, wrapped in his own sorrow. His interactions with Ni-huang jiejie is laced with a sharpness she's learned in the intervening years, war bred. He barely talks to Dong jie, whose grief is a palpable winter shroud. And of his own family, who spoil him and love him, he finds he cannot even speak of such weaknesses, when they have given him too much already. There is only Yujin for his innermost secrets, but he cannot always expect Yujin to just cater to him when he’s an alpha, and will one day belong to some distant omega, promised years ago when they first presented.

Jingrui is simply being selfish, and childish. He is of two great houses of renown, he needs to be better than this.

And yet, here he sits, achingly holding in a breath as Sir Mei illustrates why a particular essay is important for understanding the physics of balance within the context of a sword movement. As he holds back a jade-white sleeve to pour him some more tea (it's Jingrui's favorite, how did he even know) he asks if he has any questions. No judgement or expectation, but a fond, wry smile is tucked at the side of his mouth.

 

Jingrui kills the sigh in his throat and asks if Sir Mei would be kind enough to guide him, please.