While the young ones enjoyed themselves at the festival, the Heavenly Emperor and his wife sat in a pavilion behind his palace and drank tea.
“Who do you think will win this year?”
Bai Fen didn’t bother to reply. Wasn’t he sure that their son would win? Why was he even asking? To be honest, their son was a beauty but there were a lot of those around. Even his own husband was one! So if their status wasn’t considered, it would be hard to say who would come out on top. Wasn’t it just a question of preference?
The dragons, for example, loved their current king a lot even though he didn’t show up very often. They had also loved their previous king and had been happy to hear that he hadn’t actually died. Nobody had asked to have him return to his place on the throne though which showed that they respected the current Longjun very much. But if asked who was more beautiful among the two of them … they would definitely vote for the previous king. Hadn’t he been hailed as the greatest beauty of the dragon realm for a long time? If she remembered correctly, then there had even been rumors that half of the capital city had asked to marry him back in the day.
The gods, on the other hand, were rather conservative. Qiu Ling would have better chances at getting chosen than Jinde thanks to his hair and eye color but his chances should still be worse than Jing He’s because of the temperament he displayed. The gods just weren’t used to someone as outgoing as Qiu Ling. Just the way they had reacted to his wedding with Jing He was proof enough of that.
The Heavenly Empress looked up at the familiar voice. “Qiang Yan? Why did you come here? You don’t like the festival?”
Qiang Yan laughed and sat down next to his sister. “Me on that festival? I’m afraid people will say I’m old.” He grabbed the teapot and poured himself a cup. “Ah, but I saw Jing He and Qiu Ling. It seemed the two of them were having fun.”
“Hmph. How could Jing He have fun in that kind of environment?” Rong Su pursed his lips and picked up a pastry. Hmph, his precious darling son, how could that dandy pull him along to do whatever? Jing He was probably very scared inside but didn’t dare to complain. He should talk about it with him in private sometime.
Qiang Yan didn’t mind his brother-in-law’s bad mood and quietly sipped his tea.
Bai Fen ignored her husband just the same and instead nudged her brother. “You should go. You’re already so old but you’re still single. Never mind what the others say, maybe you’ll find a decent partner there. Many among the participants are alone.”
“Ah, never mind that. I’m already used to staying alone. Getting a partner now that I’m old …” He sighed. “Not everyone can be like you, falling in love when they’re young, marrying against all odds, staying together all their life …” He sighed again and picked up one of the pastries, earning a gloomy look from Rong Su.
This guy! Even if he was his brother-in-law, did he need to bother them when they were spending time as a couple? And why was he eating his pastries now?!
“Ah, sister, I’m really pitiful. You know I saw the previous dragon king together with his husband. How come he’d rather marry him and do … well, whatever they do together each day instead of getting a position in my palace? It could have been a high one.”
The Heavenly Emperor pulled the plate with the pastries away from Qiang Yan. “If you’re so curious, why don’t you go and ask?”
“Ah, how could I bother the young love?”
“You mind bothering them but you don’t mind bothering us? We’re also a couple!”
“Aiya. But you’re a different kind of couple. You’re already as old as me.
Bai Fen burst out laughing. “Isn’t the previous Longjun older than the three of us though? And they’ve also been together for several years now. I don’t think you should call them young love.”
Qiang Yan tsked. “I see you don’t want my company. In that case …” He got up and looked around. What to do? Patrol the capital? But the Heavenly Guards were already doing that and with all those strong people celebrating, nothing should happen. Ah, being a single man really was tough. Was there nobody who could share his misery with him?
Eh? Qiang Yan turned back to his sister and brother-in-law and smiled. “Say, do you know where Li Yin went?”
“The God of Justice?”
“Is there somebody else with that name?”
Rong Su frowned. “How would I know? Just go and search for him. Leave this married couple alone!”
“Ah, well, familial ties only go that far I guess.” Qiang Yan nodded at his sister and hurried back into the busy streets of the capital.
If he wanted to find Li Yin, then he should first find his son. After all, that guy was pampering his offspring even more than his brother-in-law did with Jing He. Mn, that might be the fate of a single-parent.
Qiang Yan shook his head and looked around. That Ru Zhen … where was he? He shouldn’t be on duty today, should he? In that case … he had probably crawled somewhere with his lover and was enjoying his time just like every other day too. Ah, that child had been spoiled rotten. There was really nothing in the Nine Heavens he wouldn’t dare. He might even go and pull at the Heavenly Emperor’s goatee if someone prompted him, knowing fully well that that father of his would shield him.
Qiang Yan made his way over to one of the gardens not far from his palace. There was a beautiful arrangement of bushes somewhere at the fringe with a lot of space to … Qiang Yan stopped a dozen meters away from it and raised his brows. The leaves on the closest bush were shaking and certainly not from the wind. The sounds coming out of it didn’t sound like twigs groaning in the breeze either.
He gazed up at the sky and suppressed a sigh. This Ru Zhen … Why wasn’t he surprised at all that he had been right? Qiang Yan cleared his throat. “Ru Zhen, where’s your father?”
The noises from the bush stopped and the leaves stilled after a moment, only rustling slightly in the breeze.
“I know that you’re there. Tell me where he is and I’ll leave. Otherwise … I think we could still use some more guards for the patrol.”
“He should be at the river outside of the city.”
“Oh. Thank you. You may continue.” Qiang Yan didn’t wait for the two of them to continue. He turned around and hurried out of the garden, making his way over to the outskirts of the capital. Ah, he couldn’t wait to finally share his misery with someone. Such a festival for couples was really —
Qiang Yan stopped in his tracks and his eyes widened at the side of the river bank. This … What was going on? The God of Justice, Li Yin, was indeed sitting there but … he wasn’t alone. And the scene playing out in front of Qiang Yan suggested that this wasn’t one of those quietly-keeping-each-other-company-as-single-men situations either. This was totally Li Yin making out with someone!
His hands were buried in that person’s black hair, his lips devouring those of his lover, and slowly but surely those two were leaning toward the ground where they would very likely end up just as entangled as Li Yin’s son and that lover of his. Just without the bushes.
This … this was an affront to their friendship of single men! Just who was that person who had stolen his fellow sufferer?! He stalked over, not caring at all that he was disturbing yet another couple. Those two could make out the whole year! At least let him spent a bit of time with a friend on such a day!
Qiang Yan stopped five steps away from them, crossed his arms in front of his chest and cleared his throat.
The couple didn’t leap away from each other as someone caught in the act should. Instead, Li Yin just pushed his lover to the ground and continued to kiss him.
Qiang Yan’s brows twitched. This guy! He cleared his throat again, with a bit more emphasis this time.
Li Yin only responded by turning his lover’s face to the other side and pressing his lips against his neck this time.
“Just ignore him, he’ll leave soon.”
His lover didn’t speak but the way he curled his arms around Li Yin’s shoulders spoke leagues about what he thought of this.
Damn this! These two weren’t taking him seriously at all! “Li Yin, you bastard, I —”
Qiang Yan moved to pull him away from that other guy when the person in question turned his head. The breeze ruffled Li Yin’s hair that had fallen over his lover’s face and uncovered a black mark between his eyebrows. Qiang Yan froze for a split second. The fallen god returned Li Yin’s kisses as if the extraneous person wasn’t there at all.
Qiang Yan jumped back and pointed at the couple on the ground. “You … you actually … And why the fuck does he look so much like Ru Zhen?!”
Li Yin groaned in frustration and raised his head. “It still takes two people to make a child. Now, leave! Can’t you see you’re disturbing us?” He furrowed his brows. This was really getting on his nerves. Couldn’t he spend at least one day with his husband without interference? Such an opportunity was so hard to come by! He wanted to use every second he could get!
Qiang Yan’s finger trembled. He wanted to ask if the thing with Ru Zhen had been before or after this person had fallen but … seeing the way the fallen god left a row of kisses on Li Yin’s neck and his fingers pulling at his belt, he finally gulped the words down. As if he would dare to question a fallen god!
“Then … then you continue …” Then he turned tail and ran.
The fallen god laughed and finally managed to open that belt. “Maybe we should find a better spot next time.”
“Ah, I think this one is good. Very scenic, very charming.”
“Who needs a charming scenery?”
“The scenery isn’t what’s charming about this.” And with that, another belt was flung to the side.