Jing He stood up to greet his two visitors. His heart couldn’t help but palpitate though. Someone of the dragon race … Did this have to do with what Longjun had said the previous day?
Qiang Yan took one look at his nephew and knew that he was still nervous. Ah, he could only hope this An Bai would continue to be as empathic as he had seemed until now. Well, he would just stay around for a while to make sure those two got along.
“Jing He.” Qiang Yan went over and took a closer look at his nephew. Normally, he always pretended to be more distant in front of others but screw it. If his nephew really married the dragon king in the future, it was better to let them know upfront that his uncle was the God of War. Hmph, they better don’t try to bully his nephew! “Ah, my dear nephew, I went to the dragon realm yesterday and had the good luck to meet scholar An Bai. We talked for a while and I felt that he was a very knowledgeable person and that the two of you would get along well. So I invited him over.”
“Oh, I see.” Jing He turned to An Bai and nodded. “Then I’m glad to make scholar An Bai’s acquaintance.”
An Bai cupped his fists. “It’s my pleasure. I’ve already heard a lot about Your Highness.” Especially in the last few days. Actually, his king had talked to him surprisingly often since falling in love. Maybe they should be thankful this had finally happened?
Jing He’s lips curved. “Scholar An Bai is praising me too much.”
“Not at all. I —”
Qiang Yan cleared his throat before the two of them could exchange even more pleasantries. “Jing He, since Longjun has been coming over more often in the past few days, how about you let scholar An Bai tell you more about the dragon race? It should be helpful in understanding each other better, shouldn’t it?”
Jing He glanced at his uncle before lowering his gaze again and nodding. “The God of War is certainly right. Scholar An Bai, why don’t you have a seat first?” He motioned at the table.
An Bai nodded and sat down. He couldn’t help but look at the crown prince a while longer. This person … was a little strange. He hadn’t seemed to directly look at him even once since coming in and even his own uncle had hardly gotten more than a glance from him. Was he always like this? Then their king might really have a hard time to win him over. The question was why the Son of Heaven was behaving like this though.
Jing He turned to his uncle and motioned at the table again. “Would you like to take a seat too?”
“Ah, no, no, I’ll … take a look at the garden.” Qiang Yan turned away and marched over to the window, positioning himself with his back to the table and pretending to look outside. He definitely couldn’t sit next to them. What if he somehow prevented these two people from talking with each other?
Jing He watched his uncle retreat and then went to pour both him and An Bai a cup of tea. “Scholar An Bai, have a cup of tea.”
An Bai nodded and took the cup from him. He couldn’t help but wonder a bit though. Weren’t the gods following more protocols than them in the dragon realm? How come the Son of Heaven was pouring his own tea and even that for his guests? Shouldn’t he have servants for something like this?
Jing He might not be directly looking at him but he still noticed that An Bai wasn’t drinking the tea. “This tea is from the leaves of the Summer Sun Trees in the western parts of the Nine Heavens. I’m afraid it isn’t too popular at the moment but I always felt that it has a special aroma. I hope scholar An Bai doesn’t mind drinking this type of tea.”
“Ah, no, that … The tea seems indeed very special.” He looked at the water that seemed to glow with a golden hue. The scent wafting up from it was only light, overall quite bitter but with a hint of sweetness mixed in. He lifted the cup and took a sip. It tasted just like it smelled. The Son of Heaven seemed to have a rather unique taste.
Mn, he should probably pay attention to these details and tell their king about it. Maybe this could be used to woo the Son of Heaven.
An Bai lowered the cup and looked at Jing He. “If it’s not too intrusive to ask this … I was always of the impression that the gods have a rather … strict hierarchy and protocol. But I haven’t seen anyone serving in Your Highness’ palace aside from the two guards at the gate. Could it be my assumptions about the gods were wrong?”
Jing He looked at his own cup and gently shook his head. “No, scholar An Bai is indeed right in this. Normally, there should be a lot of servants here. It’s just that I personally prefer a quieter environment so most of the time there aren’t any servants around.”
“I see. Well, I can’t say that I’m surprised. Having too many people around would probably interfere with your studies. I heard that Your Highness was interested in painting, among other things?”
Jing He hesitated but finally nodded. Even if this An Bai told Longjun about it, it shouldn’t make a difference. “I do pick up the brush every now and then. It’s just something I do in my leisure time though. I wouldn’t dare to call it a subject of study.”
“In my opinion, it is still a very good activity for one’s leisure time. It can calm the mind and maybe let us realize the deeper meaning behind the things we paint.”
“That may be so.”
An Bai took another sip of the tea. He hadn’t forgotten what his purpose for coming here was. This should be a good opportunity to finally bring up his king. He had a bit of a bad conscience though. The Son of Heaven was obviously a very refined person, someone a little reclusive. Someone like their king … he would certainly disturb this kind of lifestyle.
“Actually, our king is also very much fascinated with painting. He isn’t very vocal about it but it seems he spends a rather large amount of his time with it.”
Jing He couldn’t help but glance up. Longjun … liked to paint? He wouldn’t have thought.
An Bai felt like his face flushed from embarrassment. Alright, until a few days ago he also would have thought their king’s talent with the brush amounted to nothing more than drawing a stick figure. Who would have known he was able to paint a highly-realistic portrait of the Son of Heaven? Don’t kid him. That kind of painting … That wasn’t just raw talent. He had to have spent hours upon hours on training this skill.
He hurriedly took another sip from the tea before putting the cup down. “Speaking about our king, I feel like there are some things I should say.” He looked over and was stunned to see the Son of Heaven looking at him. For a moment, the words were stuck in his throat.
The Son of Heaven … had a beautiful pair of eyes. He had seen him from afar before and also in those paintings their king had created but sitting across from him and looking at them was different. For the first time, he felt like he understood just how their king had fallen so madly in love.
It was a pair of phoenix eyes with an elegant curve of the lower lid and a slightly elevated outer tip. His lashes were thick and dark, enough to shield his whole gaze if he didn’t look at someone directly. But now that he did, those dark pupils really could enthrall someone.
An Bai looked away and cleared his throat, feeling that it was better if the Son of Heaven didn’t look at people directly. “Our king … I don’t really know where to start with this. He normally doesn’t talk much and rather solves everything on his own. Because of that, he might sometimes leave some things unsaid. It isn’t much of a problem in the dragon realm but I could imagine that it might make things more difficult with the gods.
“Your Highness might not know this but our king has already sat on the dragon realm’s throne for a rather long time and before that, his father assisted the previous king. Saying that our current king has a close connection to the heart of our race wouldn’t be wrong. A lot of the things concerning the dragon race are second nature to him. He probably doesn’t even need to think about them.”
Jing He lowered his gaze again but he couldn’t help to listen closely. “Scholar An Bai, there is one thing I have some trouble understanding. Longjun’s father … wasn’t the previous king?”
“Ah, no. I beg your pardon. That is also one of the things different between our races. The king isn’t chosen based on bloodline but rather according to suitability. Back then his father was also eligible to become king but in the end, somebody else was chosen. It was a close call though. This time there was no doubt about His Majesty being the best choice.”
Jing He held onto his cup. So the person that had unsettled him so much was regarded that highly in the dragon realm. Well, maybe that was also what made him suitable to become king in the first place.
“Scholar An Bai, might I ask what is it that makes him a good king? I mean how do the dragons choose their king if it isn’t based on bloodline?”
An Bai smiled. This Son of Heaven was quite soft-spoken and mild-mannered. Not exactly what one would expect the crown prince of the Nine Heavens to be but still a pleasant surprise. Such a person … would probably fit their king very well. At least they wouldn’t need to worry too much anymore that he would do crazy things when he managed to marry someone like this. Such a calm person should benefit his temperament.
“Well, normally, there are a number of tests that a few chosen candidates would go through. Back then things were a little different though. Your Highness might not know but our last king, unfortunately, died in the war against the demons. Our race’s throne was left empty for quite a while afterward while the whole race mourned his passing.
“Unfortunately, this period of mourning was broken by the demons and a new war commenced that would have cost hundreds of thousands of lives. But then our current king stepped up and managed to beat them back.”
“So he is … a warrior?”
An Bai hesitated for a moment. Considering the type of person the Son of Heaven was he might not like it if he affirmed. But there was no way he wouldn’t find out even if he lied now. “If he has to, yes. But he was able to ensure a long stretch of peace since then. We are very thankful to him and I don’t think there is anyone that could imagine somebody else as our king right now.”
An Bai tapped the rim of the teacup and glanced at Jing He. “Your Highness, let me be open. The dragons are … rather unrestricted. You certainly noticed that our king’s approach toward you was quite direct. It is something normal for our race, as is fighting. Our king is highly talented in that regard and yes, calling him a warrior isn’t wrong.
“But the times back then were different and the demons weren’t open to discussion. Without him, our race might have been annihilated. What he did that was exchanging a bloody price for our security and he wouldn’t hesitate to do so again. In my opinion, that is what makes him a good king. Regardless of the circumstances, he would sacrifice himself for his subjects. I wouldn’t know what more we can demand of him.”