Jing He enclosed the teacup with his hands and looked at the golden-colored liquid in a bit of a daze. Longjun had indeed struck him as quite forceful in the last few days. But he also couldn’t deny what An Bai had said just now. He had heard about how treacherous the demons were, after all. And there was obviously more to Longjun than that. Just remembering how he had happily brought that flower over the other day …
Jing He glanced at his uncle’s back and then back to the teacup in front of An Bai. “Scholar An Bai’s words make me realize just how well-beloved Longjun is in the dragon realm. He is certainly happy for his subjects to value him this much.”
An Bai smiled wryly, feeling rather thankful that the Son of Heaven wasn’t looking at him right now. Actually, their king didn’t seem to care too much about them. Sure, he would fight against the demons to save them and just his name alone was enough to get a lot of them to flee in terror but other than for fights it was hard to get even a glimpse of him.
If Xiang Yong and he didn’t take it upon themselves to take care of all the miscellaneous matters in the dragon realm that needed someone to govern them, then their realm might already have collapsed. Well, he couldn’t mention that in front of the Son of Heaven.
“I am sure he would be, although His Majesty probably feels that caring for us is the natural thing to do. Most likely, he doesn’t expect us to thank him so, for the most part, we keep this in our hearts. It’s just that … seeing how much our king values the Son of Heaven I couldn’t keep this to myself and had to speak up for him.”
Jing He nodded but glanced at his uncle again. “That, scholar An Bai, there is something I’d like to ask in that regard.”
“Ah, please go ahead. If it’s a matter I can shed light on, I would be more than happy to do so.”
“Could it be that … gifting a heart has a special meaning in the dragon realm?” He lifted his gaze a little further, trying to gauge from the way An Bai’s lips moved if he was saying the truth.
After a day of rest, he could only imagine that there had been some meaning to this gift that the dragon king had failed to explain. But because of how it looked he had become afraid. Most likely, it was once again a misunderstanding between them caused by their different origins.
“A heart?” An Bai repeated the words and his lips tightened for a moment.
Jing He’s brows drew together slightly. What did this mean? Had he … misunderstood?
An Bai finally sighed. “Well, there is something like that. It’s … something regarded a little … controversial though.”
“Oh?” The frown between Jing He’s brows disappeared. It seemed he had thought too much right now. This scholar An Bai just seemed a little uncomfortable with this subject. “Then maybe I shouldn’t have asked.”
“No, it’s … Actually, the God of War already hinted that His Majesty might have … made use of that custom. So I feel it’s better for Your Highness to know about it.”
Jing He glanced at his uncle once again. Qiang Yan hadn’t told him anything yet so he still wasn’t aware of what the heart meant. He had only guessed but it seemed his uncle already knew more. That was probably the reason why he had brought this scholar over in the first place.
An Bai wrapped his hands around the teacup and cleared his throat. Normally, he would have liked to only talk about how this was a custom of their race like he had done yesterday in front of the God of War. But looking at the Son of Heaven he felt like that wouldn’t be such a good idea. He was obviously a quiet and thoughtful person. If he still only said positive things after he had praised their king this much, then the Son of Heaven might become distrustful. That wouldn’t help their king at all.
No, it was better to bring up this controversy. It wasn’t completely negative but would add some color to the image of their king in the crown prince’s head. What more could he hope to achieve with a single conversation?
“Since dragons are naturally more resilient than other races, strength is regarded highly so showcasing one’s strength is often done to … impress someone.” He smiled apologetically. It was obvious enough who the one their king wanted to impress was so he didn’t say anything more. He still felt like the crown prince was looking a little embarrassed though. An Bai hurriedly looked away to make him feel less uncomfortable.
Jing He cleared his throat. “So gifting a heart would be one way to show your strength?”
An Bai nodded. “Yes, that is one reason behind it. Other than that there is also an old story of our race that explains why it is a heart of all things.”
“Oh? Please do tell me about it, Scholar An Bai.”
“Well, it is said that back in the old days one of our first kings was out in the wilderness when he happened upon a person that was gravely injured. That person was of our race too and thus he took them to safety, caring for them as good as he could.
“While he did he slowly fell in love but, unfortunately, that person didn’t get better and instead their condition seemed to worsen despite his meticulous care. The king was heartbroken. After all, this was the person he had fallen in love with. How could he just let them die?
“Thus he tried to find a way to save them and finally he heard that the blood taken directly from a heart had healing properties. He fed him some of the blood from his own heart and that person indeed got a little better. It wasn’t enough though.”
“So he went out to hunt for another heart?” Jing He turned the cup in his hands, his own heart stirring. He had already thought that this was a misunderstanding but he wouldn’t have guessed that it was this grave. This gift of the dragon king he had thought of as horrifying … was surprisingly such a caring gesture.
“Indeed. And it turned out that the stronger the beast was of which he got the heart, the better the effect would be. In the end, he managed to save his beloved’s life and took that person back to the capital to marry.
“This story was once very popular in the dragon realm so hunting for the strongest prey one was confident of defeating and gifting its heart to the person one loved became a custom. It was often done to confess one’s feelings or sometimes even to propose.
“Nowadays though … there aren’t many that use this method anymore.”
“Why is that? It sounds like it is deeply rooted in the dragon race’s history.”
“Well, that’s true but there are also some downsides to this custom. First of all, there were many dragons that tried to impress the person they loved but failed to accurately grasp the strength of the prey they chose. Thus there were a lot of injuries and even some deaths among the dragons.”
Jing He’s brows drew together again but this time it was in worry. “Longjun wouldn’t have made such a mistake, would he?”
An Bai blinked and even Qiang Yan couldn’t help but turn to his nephew. Don’t tell him he was actually worried about that person? What about the fear from yesterday? Don’t tell him inviting a scholar was this effective!
An Bai’s lips moved but he didn’t really know what to say. Considering his king’s strength … there probably weren’t many beasts that could even think of scratching him. Then again His Majesty was crazy for the crown prince so he had probably chosen the most difficult prey for this. “I haven’t seen His Majesty since he went out to hunt so I’m not sure about this. Uh … If you don’t mind me asking, what kind of heart did you get?”
Jing He’s face paled just thinking of the thing in the chest. Naturally, he hadn’t taken a closer look. “I … I’m not sure.”
Qiang Yan cleared his throat. “How about Scholar An Bai takes a look at it?”
“Ah, if Your Highness doesn’t mind.”
“Of course.” Jing He got up and went to the cupboard where he had locked the chest away. Standing in front of it, he couldn’t bring himself to open it though. He didn’t want to see this thing again.
Qiang Yan saw his nephew hesitate and sighed. Well, he shouldn’t have expected anything else. The boy was too timid for something like this even if he didn’t mind the present any longer.
He hurried over and gave a smile. “Let me help you. That chest is a little heavy.” He crouched down, took the chest from the cupboard and carried it over to the table, making sure that the chest’s lid and his body barred Jing He’s gaze. There really wasn’t a need to let his nephew see this thing again.
An Bai took a look at the heart. It wasn’t as big as he had feared and instead resembled the size of a person’s heart so it stood to reason that the beast His Majesty had hunted down wasn’t much bigger. He took a sigh of relief. This was already better than he had hoped. At least, their king hadn’t gone and killed the biggest prey he could find.
He examined the heart more closely. It was of the color of a lotus flower with some golden streaks shimmering right beneath the surface. An Bai looked at them and a bad feeling rose in his heart. This couldn’t be … the heart of a golden-tailed Heaven climber, could it?
He lifted a hand and touched his forehead. Could somebody tell him what was going on in their king’s head?!