In the end, Jing He couldn’t convince himself to invite Qiu Ling. If he did, wouldn’t it seem as if his intentions were more serious than they were? Well, even if he intended to marry Longjun, he still couldn’t show it that outwardly, could he? What would people think if he did?
Thankfully, there still were some days until the Da He Festival and there was one visit of An Bai’s scheduled before it. He anxiously waited and couldn’t help but walk up to the door the day An Bai was supposed to arrive, staring off into the distance as if that could make the dragon appear sooner.
When An Bai arrived, he couldn’t help but pause. Was that the Son of Heaven at the gate? Why was he standing there? Normally, he would be sitting inside his palace, painting or practicing calligraphy or maybe he’d be in the garden tending to his flowers. He had never seen him just wait somewhere without purpose.
He went over with a bad feeling. It couldn’t be that His Highness had been waiting for him, could it? Please tell him he hadn’t! His Majesty had been looking at him like he was a thorn in his side for the past few months already. If His Highness showed him any further positive feelings, he wasn’t sure he could keep his life. Wouldn’t His Majesty run crazy?
“Scholar An Bai!” Jing He straightened up and his lips unwittingly showed a relieved smile.
An Bai felt his scalp turn numb. What was happening here? He glanced around but couldn’t see his king anywhere. Maybe he was lucky? He cleared his throat and forced himself not to smile back just in case. “Your Highness seems to be in a good mood today. Did something happen?”
Jing He froze and his smiled collapse. Had he really seemed so happy? Ah, he should have made sure to calm down beforehand. Now, what would scholar An Bai think of him? He reached up and touched his cheek, evading An Bai’s gaze. “That’s not it. I just thought of a question I’d like to ask scholar An Bai so …”
“Oh? Then please go ahead.”
Jing He smiled wryly and motioned at his palace instead of asking what had been weighing on his mind for the past two days. “Why don’t you come in first? I’m a bad host, bothering you at the door already.”
“Not at all.” An Bai followed him inside, his skin crawling with goosebumps. He couldn’t see him but his king definitely was around somewhere. He really had to be cautious with what he said today!
Jing He led An Bai to the table and motioned at the tea set. “Would scholar An Bai care for a cup of tea?”
“Mn.” An Bai nodded and looked away. The less contact he had with His Highness today the better. He shouldn’t give his king any cause to be jealous. He couldn’t help but be curious what was able to weigh on the crown prince’s mind though. It couldn’t be that his king had made progress, could it? He glanced at Jing He and even though he knew he shouldn’t, he still spoke up. “I’m curious … What is it that Your Highness was wondering about before? It should be something very important.”
Jing He froze with the teapot in his hands. “That … might be. It’s … it’s something I’m a little unsure about.” He turned back to An Bai and brought the teapot over, carefully pouring him a cup. “Scholar An Bai might know that the Da He Festival is coming up soon. Is that a festival the dragons also celebrate?”
“Oh, yes, it is. Although the significance it has in comparison to other festivals isn’t that high.”
“Is that so?” Jing He took the seat opposite him and clasped his cup. “Then … it might be a festival that not every dragon celebrates?”
An Bai shook his head. “Not necessarily. You see the Da He Festival is rather spiritual in nature. For the dragons …”
Jing He nodded. “Right. If Scholar An Bai puts it like that, I feel like I should have known.”
“Well, we still celebrate it so Your Highness isn’t wrong to ask about it. It’s just that we do value festivals with a more … physical approach more than others.”
Jing He’s brows slightly furrowed. So the Da He Festival wouldn’t mean much to Longjun. He should have known. Just why had he worried about it?
An Bai waited for him to say something else and couldn’t help but wonder if he had said anything wrong. Just why had the crown prince suddenly asked about the Da He Festival? It was only a few days off but … why the eagerness to ask? That wasn’t like him at all. Or could it be … An Bai leaned forward and tried to get a better look at Jing He’s face. “Could it be … Your Highness wants to spend the Da He Festival with His Majesty?”
Not far from the two of them, more precisely at the edge of the roof of Jing He’s palace from where he could glance through the window every now and then, Qiu Ling straightened up and puffed out his chest. Ah! His beloved wanted to spend some festival with him! How great! It seemed their wedding wasn’t far off now! Well, it was good that way, he had really waited a long time already. They should start to prepare for their wedding or it would take even longer.
He leaned down from his position and peeked through the window again. His beloved had just lifted his head to look at An Bai. Unfortunately, he was sitting with his back to him so he couldn’t see his expression. Ah, that stupid An Bai! Couldn’t he have thought of that before and take the other chair?!
Jing He’s expression wasn’t that interesting to see. After a year of interacting with both Qiu Ling and An Bai, he could keep calm even when something bothered him inwardly. Right now, his gaze suggested that An Bai’s question hadn’t had any effect on him. He just smiled noncommittally. “I wouldn’t dare to take up that much of Longjun’s time. I noticed that we never spoke about the festivals of our races though. So, if I might ask if the Da He Festival’s importance isn’t high, then what would the dragons rather celebrate?”
An Bai sighed. Ah, it had been too good to be true. He shouldn’t have expected that the Son of Heaven would fall for their king this easily. Not with how he had behaved until now. Most likely, the crown prince wouldn’t even interact with him if he wasn’t such a polite person.
“Well, we do have a habit of celebrating the days when our previous kings were enthroned.” He paused and looked away. “That reminds me … the day His Majesty was enthroned will be coming up soon.”
Qiu Ling blinked. Eh? Had it actually been another year? Hadn’t they forced him to attend that dumb festival just some weeks ago? He still remembered! He had only been able to hurry over to the Nine Heavens for half an hour in the evening! His beloved had looked so pitiful …
“Oh. I wonder … What would the dragons do on such a day?”
“Well, they are mostly used to showcase one’s strengths. Most dragons would take part in fights while others … would highlight other talents. Everyone hopes they’ll be noticed by the current king and obtain his favor.”
“Ah, so the festival does have such practical use.”
“Mn. Other than the king, those in high positions will also pay attention to the proceedings so there will be more chances for our people.”
“Well, Longjun certainly can’t watch everyone that day, can he?”
“That’s right. The ones that are able to be seen by His Majesty are only a select few. Other than those competitions, there will also be some ceremonies like singing and dancing if the festival is held for the currently reigning king. His Majesty is supposed to watch those.”
“I see.” Jing He sighed. He had met Longjun about a year ago and seen him almost every day since then but he still hadn’t known that such an important day was coming up for him. “Then … I guess it could be expected of the gods to congratulate Longjun on that special day. Is there anything that would be customary to gift for this occasion?”
An Bai shook his head. “No. There is no such thing.” In fact, if anybody wanted to gain the king’s attention outside those competitions, it would be customary to dance for him but he certainly couldn’t suggest for the Son of Heaven to do that! Don’t kid him. The gods weren’t a race that liked to showcase physical aspects. Just look at what the crown prince was wearing today!
An Bai eyed the long sleeves of Jing He’s robe and the coat that had been draped over his shoulders and couldn’t help but sigh. Really, this would be so much easier if he was a dragon too.
The two of them fell silent while a certain person outside clenched his hands into fists. This An Bai! That bastard shouldn’t think he wouldn’t notice how he was eying his beloved! He had eyes, damn it! Ugh, he had to do something about him. Well, their conversation had given him a good idea though. He only had to plan ahead to make sure that nothing would go wrong.