Jing He closed his eyes and continued to cling to the cupboard with trembling limbs. Ah … Even until now nobody had come by. If Longjun hadn’t left on his own … Who knew what might have happened already?
It couldn’t go on like this. He couldn’t just wait for the dragon king to come back and do what he had threatened him with. He had to get help.
Jing He cracked his eyes open and looked up to the chest with the heart. He wasn’t sure what kind of creature it had come from but it was bigger than that of a god. Most likely it had been some kind of beast and Longjun had taken it down all by himself. In that case, there was only one person that could help.
Jing He pulled himself up on the edge of the cupboard and dusted his clothes off. He definitely couldn’t let anybody see him like this. And Longjun had just left. It would be strange if he came back already. He should be safe until tomorrow at the very least.
Jing He went over to the table beside his bed and sat down. He took another deep breath and picked up his comb, slowly going through all the strands of his hair that had scattered when he fell down.
Only when the image reflected back in the mirror resembled his usual self again did he get up and walk back into the front part of his chambers. He sat down at the table and lightly called out toward the door. “Huang Lan.”
One of the guards in front of the door turned to the side and bowed even though Jing He couldn’t see him from inside the palace. “I’m here, Your Highness.”
Jing He gave a relieved sigh. He didn’t like having many people around so his uncle had long since sent the same guards to him. Hearing that nothing had happened to them set his heart at ease. “Please go and ask the God of War over to my palace.”
Huang Lan gave pause but finally acknowledged the command. “Yes, Your Highness.” His steps retreated in the usual firm manner, calming Jing He even more.
Yes, he didn’t have to worry too much. Longjun hadn’t attacked his guards so not all civility had been let go of yet. There might be a way to salvage the situation. He would first check with his uncle and depending on what he thought about the matter they could decide on further steps.
At the same time, Huang Lan rushed into the God of War’s palace. As one of the guards sent to guard the crown prince, he didn’t need the others to announce him. He ran to the God of War’s study unhindered and bowed. “Greetings! His Highness requests your presence in his palace.”
“Mn, he can come —” Qiang Yan stopped and looked up incredulously. “Wait, what? My nephew asked for me to come over?”
Huang Lan nodded.
Qiang Yan looked at the scrolls of paper on his table, then leaped to his feet. He grabbed his sword on the way out and ran all the way to Jing He’s palace. Don’t kid him! This wasn’t his nephew’s normal behavior.
He would never ask people over. He would always send a servant to ask if people were busy and only when he got the message that they weren’t would he go and visit them. But he would always go over himself. Sure, people often didn’t bother to send a message back and just went over to his palace immediately as if he had summoned them. But that wasn’t because he asked them to but because they were embarrassed to have the Son of Heaven walk over to their palace while they comfortably sat in their chairs.
“Jing He!” Qiang Yan didn’t bother with formalities and rushed into the palace. Seeing his nephew sit there with a pale face he hurried over, slammed his sword onto the table and knelt down beside Jing He, looking him all over.
He couldn’t find any injuries. His nephew was just incredibly pale as if he had seen a ghost.
“Uncle.” Jing He smiled and motioned at the chair on the other side of the table. “Why don’t you sit down first?”
Qiang Yan wanted to refuse but knowing his nephew he wouldn’t get anything out of him otherwise. He tightened his lips, stood up and took a seat. “So what happened?”
Jing He looked to the window sill where the weed Qiu Ling had brought over the day before had still stood this morning. “Longjun came by.” Ah, yesterday, he had still believed this could work somehow.
Qiang Yan tensed and his hand reached for his sword as if on its own. “What did he do?” If that guy had dared to do anything untoward to his nephew, he would go and cut him down regardless of the consequences! And if he had to bring the whole army for that.
Jing He didn’t say anything. He really didn’t know how to explain this. He got up and walked over to the cupboard and took the chest. His hands shook when he picked it up but he forced himself to bring it over to the table and place it in front of Qiang Yan. He couldn’t bring himself to sit down again though. Instead, he continued to stand beside his uncle. “He … gifted this to me.”
Qiang Yan looked up at his nephew that seemed even paler than before and pulled the chest closer. Just what was in there that had Jing He this troubled? His mind was normally very steadfast. It really was strange to see him this flustered.
He lifted the lid only to slam it shut immediately. Heavens! Was that … a beast’s heart? Why would Longjun gift something like this to Jing He? No wonder his nephew was looking like this! He had barely come of age and always been sheltered. He had hardly seen blood in his life! How could Longjun gift a heart to someone like that?
Qiang Yan got up and gently touched Jing He’s arm. “You’re looking out of sorts. Maybe it would be better if you lie down for a while.”
Jing He hesitated but finally nodded. He really wasn’t feeling too well. Before he collapsed and worried his family even more he should take the necessary precautions now.
Qiang Yan led him to his bed and helped him lie down. Ah, seeing him like this could really break hearts. What had that Longjun thought?
“You wouldn’t tell father and mother about this, would you?”
Qiang Yan raised his brows. “What do you mean I wouldn’t? Of course, I will! Look at you, you’re already feeling this bad but you still … Haish, child, if your mother knew …”
“Please. I don’t want them to worry needlessly.”
Jing He reached out and touched Qiang Yan’s arm. There was no strength behind this gesture, just deep helplessness. Qiang Yan sighed and finally nodded.
“Alright, alright. Don’t look at me like this. But I really don’t understand you. What are you worried about?”
Jing He took his hand back and faced the ceiling. “They would worry. I don’t want that. Maybe there is still a way to deal with this matter. It’s not certain that something will happen to me, right?”
Qiang Yan frowned. “What do you mean? Something will happen to you?”
Jing He gripped his sleeve. “Well, he said he would come back to get mine …”
“Your …” Qiang Yan furrowed his brow. Ah, he didn’t have too much confidence in beating up the dragon king. But he really wanted to do so now anyway! Just how much had that guy scared his poor nephew?
He forced himself to take a few deep breaths and patted Jing He’s hand. “Don’t worry. I won’t tell your parents for now and I’ll do something about this. Just … continue to lie down and rest for a while. I’ll come back when I have some progress to show.”
“Thank you, uncle.” Jing He forced himself to smile.
Qiang Yan nodded, patted his hand once again and got up. He took a long look at his nephew before he turned away and left. Naturally, he took the chest with the heart with him. He couldn’t leave that thing with Jing He.
In front of the palace, he turned to the two guards. “When did Longjun come by?”
Huang Lan and Mu Kun exchanged a glance. “Longjun? He didn’t come by.”
“Didn’t …” Qiang Yan frowned before his expression smoothed out. “My bad. He probably wasn’t here then yet. Keep your guard up. He will likely visit soon.”
“Yes!” The two guards bowed while Qiang Yan already turned away.
Ah, so the dragon king had actually sneaked into his nephew’s palace to give him that horrible gift. He’d really like to hear how the people of the dragon race wanted to explain the matter this time.