The Heavenly Emperor finally abandoned his suspicions. He didn’t allow Qiu Ling to walk next to his son though and instead pulled Jing He to his own side. “Forget about this. Since you’re here now come on in. Your mother should also be here soon. Then we can go and attend the festival.”
“Yes, father.” Jing He nodded but glanced at Qiu Ling. The dragon king had obviously come to spend the festival with him and even accompanied him to his father’s palace. There was no way he would return to the dragon realm before the festival was over. Normally, he wouldn’t mind. After all, this person had run over to his palace almost every day for the past year. If he was still bothered by it, he already would have found an excuse to refuse him entry.
But today was different. His father was there and would also attend the festival. Even though he was doing so with his wife, he would expect him to be there with them. Even if he wasn’t, his father would never allow him to be with Longjun. In that case, what was he supposed to do?
He couldn’t send the dragon king away but he couldn’t spend this day with him either. He really was stuck between a rock and a hard place.
Qiu Ling hadn’t stopped watching Jing He. Seeing his troubled expression he wanted to hurry over and calm him down. Unfortunately, there was still his future father-in-law. Qiu Ling pursed his lips. He had already come here so often and hadn’t made any trouble. He had tried to learn about the gods and made sure he didn’t do anything inappropriate so his Jing He wouldn’t be in an awkward position. So how come his future father-in-law still hadn’t accepted him? Couldn’t he see that he was trying very hard?
Qiu Ling eyed the Heavenly Emperor. This person was his biggest obstacle in winning his beloved over. After all, Jing He paid a lot of attention to what his father said. He had to convince him of his worth! Mn … Since today was an important festival maybe it was a good idea to finally bring this up. He couldn’t do so now though.
Qiu Ling’s eyes narrowed. If he spoke up now when nobody was around, his father-in-law would get angry and show it. Maybe that would earn him his beloved’s pity but that wasn’t enough. No, he wanted more. Since this was the person he had fallen in love with he wanted everything! He wouldn’t give up until they had married. In that case, he needed to be smart. So it was better to bring the issue up when other people were around. Especially if one of those people was the Heavenly Empress. With her around, the Heavenly Emperor wouldn’t dare to behave badly!
Qiu Ling chuckled, earning him an angry glare from the Heavenly Emperor and a confused look from Jing He. Qiu Ling blinked and smiled at Jing He. He wanted to speak up but they had already reached the gate of the palace. Hmph. He would have many, many more opportunities to talk to his beloved when the festival began. He didn’t need to hurry now.
He followed the two of them into a study on the right side of the hall and watched as the Heavenly Emperor led his son to the desk.
Jing He smiled but didn’t sit down. Instead, he turned back to Qiu Ling. “Longjun, why don’t you sit down? Would you dare for a cup of tea? I can have the servants bring some.”
Qiu Ling’s face lit up but he shook his head. Ah, it was nice that his beloved cared so much about his well-being but if he did drink a cup, he wanted his beloved to pour it himself. “No need.” He hurried over and smiled even brighter. “Just sit down yourself. Today will be very exhausting. You should rest now.”
Jing He’s lips opened but he didn’t know what to say. Under Qiu Ling’s urging, he could only do as he said and sat down. He couldn’t help but take another look at him though. He was used to his father being like this but … Longjun?
The Heavenly Emperor looked from his son who seemed lost to the culprit and frowned. “Longjun, why have you come?”
Qiu Ling blinked. “Ah … Isn’t it because today is the Da He festival? I came to spend it with Ji—” He coughed. “Uh, with His Highness. Uhm … improving the relationship and everything … between our races.” He looked at the ceiling. This should count as a dignified reason that even his future father-in-law could accept, shouldn’t it?
The Heavenly Emperor’s brows drew even further together. Improving the relationship between them? Was this guy mocking him?! He clenched his fists and wanted to erupt but Jing He cleared his throat.
“Father, do you know when mother will arrive? Since Longjun made the effort to come here to improve the relationship between our races I feel bad about not receiving him better.”
“Hmph. Then he should have announced his attendance like a normal guest.”
Jing He smiled. Just why was it so hard to make those two get along? “I’m sure Longjun had his reasons. Maybe this was a spontaneous idea?” He turned to Qiu Ling.
Qiu Ling beamed. “Mn, yes, you’re naturally right!” He knelt down next to where Jing He sat and stared at him. “This morning when I woke up I thought of you and —”
A woman’s laughter sounded from the door. “Longjun, what did I hear just now? Some rumors about my son?”
Qiu Ling looked over his shoulder. Naturally, the person in question was Jing He’s mother. He smiled and got up again, hurrying over with an ingratiating smile.
Bai Fen’s brows twitched. “It seems I’m getting old. I thought I heard something very strange right now. But naturally, you wouldn’t have said that.”
Qiu Ling blanked. Damn! He had blurted out his true thoughts! He glanced at Jing He before smiling even more brightly at Bai Fen. “Your Majesty! How nice to see you again! So you’re also taking part in the festival? How great! Your husband must be really happy! Mn, I’d also love to get married soon!”
“I bet you do.” Bai Fen smiled and passed by him, walking to the side of her husband who was boiling with rage. Mn, that Longjun would need to work on his behavior if he wanted to convince him. Well, that was a worry for another day. “The people have started gathering. How about we go over?”
Rong Su glared at Qiu Ling a moment longer until his wife finally had enough. She slapped his arm and raised her brows. “The festival?”
“Oh? Oh! Yes, yes! You’re absolutely right, my dear. Let’s go over now.” He laughed and took her arm, escorting her to the door.
Behind them, Jing He stood up. He hesitated but then went to Qiu Ling’s side. He looked up and for a spell, their eyes met once more. Jing He blinked and turned away. “How about Longjun escorts me to the river?”
“Should I —” Qiu Ling eagerly leaned forward but stopped himself before he could blurt out his question. Ah, he’d love to carry his beloved over but there was no way Jing He would allow him. Mn, since he had already spoken up he should try something else. He observed Jing He’s face that still showed a pleasant smile and straightened up again. Now, how could he end this sentence satisfactorily?
Jing He waited and finally glanced up when Qiu Ling didn’t continue. “Longjun?”
Qiu Ling thought hard but couldn’t come up with anything. In that case … he could only pretend to be mature! He cleared his throat and straightened his sleeves. “Yes, Your Highness?”
Jing He blanked and the smile that normally was on his face faded slightly. When … had this person ever called him ‘Your Highness’ s seriously?
Qiu Ling tilted his head to the side, making his black hair slide over his shoulder. Since he was already pretending he should go the whole way. “Your Highness? Are you alright?” He reached out and this time, he touched his cheek. His thumb caressed Jing He’s cheekbone but the crown prince didn’t shy away.
His heart thumped loudly and his cheeks flushed pink. This … Was this still the same person? Still the same happy-go-lucky dragon king that would or would almost cross a line with every second word he said and every move he made? Was that even possible? The person in front of him seemed to be someone different. Someone … he could depend on.
Jing He blinked, lowered his head and moved out of Qiu Ling’s grasp. “I …” He wanted to answer but his voice sounded breathless.
Qiu Ling also blinked. Was this really happening right now? Heavens! Fu Min had been right! Pretending to be mature was really the way into his beloved’s heart! He stepped closer again and made sure his smile wasn’t too bright. “If you’re alright, then we should go. We shouldn’t make the Heavenly Emperor and Empress wait, should we?”
Jing He glanced up and nodded slowly. Yes. They couldn’t … let them wait.