Jing He’s cheeks flushed red and his lips slightly parted. “Mother, I —”
Bai Fen waved, not giving him any chance to continue talking. “Yes, yes. I already know. There is nothing going on, you have no idea what I’m talking about. Now, how about telling me the truth now? Longjun has been coming over here for a year now. You also didn’t seem to mind too much when he accompanied you at the festival. So how is it? You wouldn’t have fallen in love with him, would you?”
Jing He lowered his gaze again, his fingers brushing the hem of his sleeve. Fallen in love … How could that be? But he also knew that his mother wanted him to. She seemed to be of the opinion that Longjun would be a good partner for him. If he said now that he had no feelings for him at all, then she would likely be disappointed. He couldn’t do that. So what then?
Jing He turned back to the window and looked at the garden. “Longjun … I don’t quite know what to think of him.”
Bai Fen raised her brows. “You don’t know? How that?”
Jing He looked at the windowsill where just one year ago the weed stood that Longjun had brought over as a present and sighed. “One moment, he’s … I don’t know how to say this. But in one moment, he will like that day we first met, trying to grab my hand, talking to me so excitedly, wanting to drag me off right the very same moment. And then, he might as well be just like on the day of the festival. He’ll just look at me, talking calmly, as if me being there won’t make a difference.”
Bai Fen raised her brows. Longjun hadn’t done anything wrong at the festival. That was already something she silently celebrated. She wasn’t too sure if there was anything more to that though. Could it really be that he had been calm and not excited seeing her son? She could hardly imagine that. “If this wasn’t you talking, I might wonder if the person in front of me was making a joke. Longjun has been crazily in love with you since he saw you for the first time. How could he suddenly become calm and collected?”
Jing He’s grip on his sleeve tightened but he hid his reaction behind the fabric. “Who knows? Maybe he has tired of me already. It might be that he doesn’t care too much anymore.”
Bai Fen shook her head. “Even if I saw him being calm and collected with my own eyes, I wouldn’t believe that. No, there has to be something else going on. Did he say anything? Something you found suspicious?”
Jing He shook his head. “Nothing of the like, mother. He was …” He stopped talking, lost in thought. Yes, how to say this? “He was somehow … more charming than usual?” Indeed. His heart had actually thumped in response. That had never happened before. Not like that, at least.
Bai Fen’s brows rose. She never would have thought she’d hear that kind of thing from her son. “More charming?” She stepped closer and tried to take a look at his face. “How so?”
Jing He glanced at her but didn’t quite know how to react. He returned to looking at his garden, his thoughts wandering back to the festival. With everything that had happened yesterday, he did feel that things were just like in a dream. “I don’t know. Maybe I … Maybe I’m mistaken. There’s no way he could have been that different, could there?”
Bai Fen had no idea what exactly had happened but the way her son looked right now didn’t make her happy at all. For the past year, Jing He had always seemed rather indifferent. To him, Longjun had always been a person that came by and had to be entertained. He didn’t mind talking to him anymore, so at least he wasn’t afraid any longer. On the other hand, there wasn’t even a single spark from his side. He hadn’t developed any romantic feelings for Longjun.
But right now, there was a thoughtful expression in his eyes. This wasn’t love, maybe it wasn’t even affection. But for the first time, she felt that Longjun had indeed managed to at least garner her son’s attention on another level. This wasn’t just the simple matter of wanting to make a good impression on somebody else as he usually did, no, this was actually as if he had noticed the person themselves. This wasn’t just about his own reputation. He had a conscious impression of Longjun. And that was way more than she could say about anybody else.
Bai Fen sighed inwardly. Even though Longjun had gotten this far, it had taken him a whole year. If the man really wanted to someday wed her son, she was afraid it might take him several decades to do so if he continued at this speed.
Well, Jing He was still young so it shouldn’t be a problem to take some time. Unfortunately, the possible partner in question didn’t seem to be of the patient sort. Would he really be able to wait this long without pressuring Jing He? She couldn’t imagine it.
Well, that was something to worry over later. Right now, there was something else she was ill at ease about. She reached out, lightly touching Jing He’s arm. “Did you really feel that he was very different from how he usually was?”
Jing He pondered and nodded. This was something he hadn’t been able to figure out himself so maybe it wouldn’t be too bad to bring it up in front of his mother. Maybe she could give him some advice. “Yes, very strangely so. I would never have thought he could be like that.”
“And you were impressed by that?”
Jing He didn’t quite know how to react. “I don’t know if impressed is the right word to say it. I guess that he finally was how I would’ve imagined him. You know that Scholar An Bai of the dragon race has come by regularly to teach me about their customs, don’t you?”
Bai Fen nodded. “Yes, that should help with getting along with Longjun, shouldn’t it? There were probably quite a few misunderstandings at the beginning. Even though the dragons are our allies, we don’t know them too well.”
Jing He nodded. “That is it. I have asked him about Longjun and apparently, he has reigned over the dragon realm for a long time. He should be …” Jing He pondered how to say this and finally turned to his mother, his cheeks slightly flushing again. “He is quite a bit older.”
Bai Fen couldn’t help but chuckle in response. “You shouldn’t say that when he’s around. You’ll make him feel self-conscious.”
Jing He lowered his head and nodded. “A few days ago, I wouldn’t have believed that. He never seemed to take anything too hard. Whatever I said, whatever he saw, nothing seemed to face him. He just breezed over it and continued with whatever was going on in his head. But at the festival two days ago … he was different. For the first time, I felt that he acted his age, he acted … befitting his status.”
Bai Fen looked at her son’s expression, putting a hand on his shoulder. “I see.” Unfortunately, she really saw. What her son was currently feeling certainly wasn’t love. But maybe he really was impressed. He finally saw Longjun as who he was: the king of the dragon race. And with Longjun suddenly acting differently, he’d seen what he imagined a king to be like.
As the Son of Heaven he had grown up with the knowledge that he would one day head the Nine Heavens, he had always had a sense of responsibility. He knew what the people expected of him now and what they would expect in the future. His appearance, his bearing, everything of that was focused on meeting with these expectations. It always had. Well, it had as soon as he understood these things. There had only been a few precious years when Jing He had only been a normal child. From the moment he understood, all of that had changed.
Who knew if her son had ever really given any thought to who his future husband would be? When Longjun came up and tried to woo him, he hadn’t been in favor of the idea. To him, there had only been the dilemma of fulfilling the expectations of both his parents. His father had told him to stay away from this man while she had told him to give it a try. Furthermore, he also knew that Longjun’s status was rather fitting for his own. What made him reluctant might have been Longjun’s personality. This kind of happy-go-lucky man that didn’t observe the gods’ customs and did whatever he wanted, he didn’t fit what Jing He would imagine at all.
So Jing He had entertained him but nothing more. He just couldn’t imagine this type of husband. The person he probably had started to imagine at that time was somebody much different. The person he wanted was somebody who fit him in status, appearance, bearing, and personality. It should be a man that was calm and collected, mature, of impeccable appearance, who paid attention to how he dressed and behaved himself. It certainly wasn’t the type of person that would go and beat up guards and tried to kidnap the person he liked when things didn’t go as he imagined.
Now, Longjun had somehow managed to display exactly that kind of behavior that Jing He desired. And even though his her son was still skeptical and couldn’t quite believe what he had seen, he couldn’t help but think about this. If Longjun really was like that, then he would be far more likely to give in. After all, this type of husband was the one he had decided to fit him. So the only thing still standing between them then would be his father’s opinion.
This was a good thing, normally. Unfortunately, she couldn’t imagine the dragon king being like this at all. If this was the type of personality he had, then they would have seen that last year already, wouldn’t they? But they hadn’t so in that case, it could only mean that he was pretending to be somebody he wasn’t to win over Jing He. And that, as much as she wanted Jing He to fall in love, wasn’t right.
No, as serious as her son was, if he really fell in love, it would be hard to let go of that person afterward. So if the person finally turned out not to be as he had imagined, then that might break his heart. As a mother, she naturally couldn’t let that happen. So whatever it was that Longjun was getting at, she would make sure to find out and if this wasn’t something she could condone, then she would make sure that her son wouldn’t be caught in the middle of this.