AHS C1: The Fairest of Them All

Jing He sat in front of his dressing table and refused to look at the mirror. Who knew what he would see if he did? He folded his hands in his lap and examined his nails instead, letting the two men behind him do whatever they wanted with his hair. Mn, his nails seemed a little dull. He should polish them when those two left.
Behind him, the Heavenly Emperor Rong Su glared at the person next to him. “What are you doing? That doesn’t suit him at all!”
Qiu Ling glared back. “Even if it wouldn’t suit him, my beloved would still be the most beautiful person around! And how can you say this doesn’t suit him? He looks beautiful!”
“He looks beautiful because he always looks beautiful! You said so yourself!”
“Hmph.” Qiu Ling turned to the side and continued to comb his half of Jing He’s hair.
The Heavenly Emperor wasn’t willing to let things go this easily though. “You don’t appreciate him enough!”
Qiu Ling frowned but just harrumphed again. He wouldn’t argue with his father-in-law. Ah come to think of it this was such a great opportunity! He inched closer to Jing He and brushed the strands that had fallen in front of his shoulder back again. “Are you comfortable, my love?”
Jing He smiled. “I am. Having my father and you here with me is very comforting.”
“Mn. That’s good then.” Qiu Ling pursed his lips to give his beloved a kiss when he was yanked back by his sleeve.
“Did you hear that? He mentioned me first!” Rong Su raised his chin. He definitely wouldn’t accept that another man was more important to his precious son than he himself!
Qiu Ling pulled his sleeve back and leaned forward again, finally landing that kiss on his beloved’s cheek. “Being filial is a virtue. My beloved is so virtuous. Naturally, he’ll feel obligated to mention you first.” He smiled and ran his fingers through Jing He’s hair.
“Take your hands away!” Rong Su slapped Qiu Ling’s wrist but it had no effect.
“I’m almost done with your hair, my love. Do you also want me to help you choose a suitable robe?”
Jing He’s lips twitched. He didn’t even dare to look at what those two had done to his hair. How could he allow them to choose what he’d wear too?
“I’m thinking …” Qiu Ling put the comb down and reached toward a fiery red flower.
Just before his fingers touched the delicate petals, it was snatched away. Rong Su harrumphed and gently inserted the flower at his side of Jing He’s hair.
Qiu Ling held back a smile and hugged Jing He’s waist. “I was thinking of that light red robe you wore when —”
“I’ll find a suitable one!” Rong Su got up and stalked over to the wardrobe.
Qiu Ling chuckled and leaned forward. “Don’t worry about it, my love. You’ll look splendid.”
Jing He didn’t dare look up. Ah, he’ll just let the two of them play around for a while. If things got too out of hand, he could still ask his mother for help.
Qiu Ling smiled and let go of Jing He, tending to his hair again. He took out the red flower the Heavenly Emperor had put in there and held it in front of Jing He. “Hold this for a moment.”
Jing He took it and glanced at his father who was pulling out every green robe he could find in his wardrobe.
Qiu Ling grabbed his beloved’s hair and gently pulled back the strands his father-in-law had braided. Before Jing He could react, he joined them with the part he had combed before, picked up a jade hairpin and fixed all of it in Jing He’s neck. He sorted the braids and loose strands and arranged everything before taking the flower back from Jing He and adding it to his handiwork.
“What do you think?” He took a hand mirror out of the dressing table and held it behind Jing He so his beloved would be able to see.
Jing He finally looked up and blinked his eyes. This … looked surprisingly well. Half of his face lay bare while the other part was framed by the inky strands and from behind, it gave him a gentle but not fragile look. “That … I’m a little surprised.”
Qiu Ling smiled with satisfaction and put the mirror down. “See? I promised you’d be the fairest of them all.”
Jing He smiled. “I’m not sure if a red robe would be good though.”
“Don’t worry. Father-in-law will pick a dark green one.”
“I suggested a light red one, didn’t I? Naturally, he’d pick the opposite of whatever I said so he can gloat over how well he did.”
This time Jing He laughed. “You know him very well.”
“You don’t want him to be unhappy. Naturally, I’ll make sure he isn’t.”
Jing He turned to face him and cupped his lover’s cheeks. “Thank you. I am … very grateful that you’re this understanding.”
“It’s nothing. It’s good you still have your family. I wouldn’t want to change anything about that.”
“How about a kiss now?” Qiu Ling raised his brows and leaned forward only to be greeted by a layer of green fabric.
“What do you think about this one, Jing He? I think red doesn’t suit either you or the occasion. Green would be much better.”
Jing He glanced up at his father whose face indeed showed signs of gloating and his lips curved up. “That’s a wonderful idea, father.” He stood up and took the robe from him, glancing at his lover. “Then I’ll go change now. What about you, father? Is that what you want to wear to the festival?”
Rong Su blanked. Shit! He had forgotten! “Ah, your mother … picked something for me.”
“Then you should hurry back to your palace and change too. Qiu Ling and I will come over when I’m finished.”
“Of course, of course.” Rong Su nodded and turned away. At the door, he stopped. Wait! If he left … who would make sure that damned dandy wouldn’t take advantage of his precious son?! He turned around to advise Jing He to be careful around him only to see Qiu Ling standing next to the folding screen behind which Jing He was changing.
This … this bastard!
Just when he wanted to lunge himself at Qiu Ling, a slender hand grabbed his shoulder with astounding strength.
“Rong Su, my dear husband, just where do you think you’re going? Leave the children alone and come change.” With that, the Heavenly Empress Bai Fen dragged her husband away.

ToC next >

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