Qiang Yan approached the dragon king’s palace with a dark expression and a small chest in his hand.
The guards in front of the gate gulped and exchanged a glance. This was the God of War. Could it be he had come in that function and actually wanted to declare war on them? Ah, no, if anything, he should come over to tell them of an attack of the demons since they were allies. Although … his expression said otherwise.
Qiang Yan stopped in front of the two men, his expression not easing the least bit. “I’m here to see …”
Longjun? Uh, that probably wasn’t such a good idea. That guy had run over to the Nine Heavens and presented his nephew with a heart that he probably regarded as a sign of his love or something. There was no way he would understand what the problem was.
Then who should he demand to see? He definitely couldn’t just leave it be. Jing He had been terrified. He had to make sure something like this wouldn’t repeat itself. Wasn’t there someone reasonable in the dragon realm? Ah! What about those two who had accompanied Longjun to the banquet the last time?
Qiang Yan cleared his throat. “Your dragon realm’s Xiang Yong or An Bai.”
The two guards repeated the names and exchanged another glance. So the God of War hadn’t come to meet His Majesty? How strange! “Uh … Then … Follow me please?” One of them motioned inside.
Qiang Yan nodded and followed him into one of the wings of the building. He was greeted by the scent of herbs and old books. Behind one of the doors, the rustling of pages could be heard.
The guard knocked on the door. “The God of War has come by to speak with you.”
“The God of War?” An Bai furrowed his brows and got up from his desk. “Please, come on in.”
The guard opened the door and retreated when Qiang Yan stepped in. He didn’t even want to know what was happening here. Sometimes it was better not to know too much.
Qiang Yan waited until the door closed behind him before he turned to An Bai.
An Bai gave a strained smile. “Greetings to the God of War. I wonder if something happened for you to drop by so suddenly?”
Qiang Yan gave a grunt and walked over, putting the chest down on the table. “Something happened indeed and I’d like to hear what the dragons have to say in explanation. Longjun brought this by in the morning.”
“This …” An Bai looked at the chest. His heart dropped. Don’t tell him this was about the cultural present his king had asked about yesterday? Just what had he come up with in the end?
Qiang Yan pushed the chest closer to him and stepped back with a wry smile. “Oh, please, take a closer look if you don’t know what I’m talking about.”
An Bai gulped and reached out, carefully lifting the lid of the chest. Inside … He slammed the chest shut again and lowered his head. Ah, could he admit to the God of War that he was embarrassed on his king’s behalf? Probably not.
“I reckon this was given to the Son of Heaven as a present?”
“Indeed. And it was accompanied by the promise that he would come back to take his.”
An Bai rubbed his brow. “Well, that …” Ah, this wasn’t that easy to explain! Especially for him. He had always hated this custom. Still, this was about their king’s dignity. He couldn’t let any of his personal feelings show.
An Bai forced himself to lower his hand and give a smile. “I hope His Highness liked the present. This is one of the most important customs of our race, dating back to one of the earliest reigns.”
Qiang Yan furrowed his brow. “Don’t try to give me any of these stupid explanations. Your Longjun already made trouble on the banquet and several times after that even though it’s only been a few days. Just make sure something like this doesn’t happen again.”
An Bai lowered his head. It seemed there was nothing he could hide. This God of War had already understood everything. “Yes. That … May I ask, how is His Highness?”
Qiang Yan sighed. “Not too well. This scared him badly.” He paused for a moment, unsure if he should say more. In the end, he still spoke up. “I do understand that there are some problems that inevitably come with relationships between the races but there need to be bounds. This definitely crossed one of those. Our crown prince isn’t a warrior, he’s more of a scholar. So if your Longjun wants to give him presents, tell him to go for some pretty painting or poem or something. Not only will that raise his chances of succeeding, but it will also make sure the relationship between our races won’t be strained too much.”
“Thank you for the reminder.”
“Mn.” Qiang Yan turned to pick up the chest again, his gaze brushing the books on the table. His brows raised. Those were … books on the three races? Or, well, this specifically was one about the customs of the gods. “Ah, might I take a look at that?” He pointed at the book.
An Bai’s eyes widened but he nodded. “Yes, please do so.” His heart couldn’t help but palpitate. He never would have thought that one of the gods would come by so suddenly. But now that he was already here it might be for the best. Maybe he could tell him how accurate the information in the book was. That might be for the best if they wanted to make a future between their king and the Son of Heaven possible. After all, who could tell them better about the gods than one of them himself?
Qiang Yan put the chest down and picked up the book instead, leafing through the pages. Most of the information was pretty general like a rundown of historical records or what their magic was like. Everything was contrasted with the information of the dragon race though so it could be said to be valuable in regard to the constant misunderstandings that had happened between his nephew and the dragon king.
Qiang Yan silently nodded and browsed further through the book. And then he finally reached … the marriage rituals. He stopped for a moment and took a closer look at the chapter. The subject was far more specific than the ones from before but, unfortunately, that had also led to there being less information than before and some of it was even so vague that he himself wasn’t sure if their customs could be described like that.
He frowned and turned the next page. A very detailed ink painting fell into his eyes. Qiang Yan took a closer look. That was a bed and … His eyes widened and the tips of his ears grew red. He hurriedly closed the book and looked up at An Bai.
Heavens! This guy looked like a scholar. Don’t tell him he was also … Were all dragons like that?
Qiang Yan rubbed his brow. Ah, what was he even thinking about? He had known that there were different customs in their races. He shouldn’t be this surprised. And why was he feeling embarrassed? He might not be a married man but he had had a wife when he underwent one of his trials. He wasn’t a stranger to this kind of thing.
Qiang Yan cleared his throat. “Ah, um, I was wondering … Could I take this with me? I think taking a closer look might help us understand your race too. Maybe … His Highness …” He stopped talking and looked at the ceiling.
Forget it. There was no way something like this could be shown to his prim and proper nephew. Jing He would be appalled. No, it was better to go through this book with his sister and see what could be left in without worrying him. Then they could have somebody write all of it down and present it to him. That way Jing He wouldn’t be as surprised when Longjun did something crazy the next time.
“Of course, of course.” An Bai hurriedly nodded. “Actually, there are a few other books that might be helpful in that regard. Some of which focus more on our race. Maybe the God of War would like to take a look?” He motioned at the wall behind the table.
Qiang Yan looked over and almost stumbled backward. Argh! What kind of room was this?! That guy had filled every single inch with books! Ah, this really was a scholar …
Ah? Qiang Yan blinked and looked at the book in his hands again. Actually, it would be a lot of work to go through everything and then have someone write down a revised version. Wouldn’t it be much better to let somebody teach his nephew directly? And interacting with someone from the dragon race who wasn’t totally crazy and even shared some interests with him might be for the best. It would weaken the impression Longjun had given him up until now.
An Bai inclined his head when Qiang Yan looked at him like that. “Is something the matter?”
Qiang Yan put the book down next to the chest with the heart and took a step closer to him. “Scholar An Bai, say … Might you be able to do me a favor?”
An Bai didn’t know why but when the God of War approached him like that he shuddered and had the impulse to retreat.