Bai Fen patted her son’s shoulder again and gave a smile. “Well, maybe there’s more to him than we’ve given him credit for so far. Just keep an eye on it and see how things go. You know you have time to decide on your spouse. And since Longjun has stuck around for a year already, I’m sure that he will do so for much longer. Don’t feel forced to decide.”
Jing He nodded. “I’ll do that, mother. Thank you for your advice.”
“Alright, that was everything I wanted to know. I should leave you to yourself now.” She patted his hand and then turned around, leaving his palace and returning to her own. She sat down in front of the window facing her own garden and waved at a servant. “Go to the dragon realm. I’d like to invite Longjun to a cup of tea whenever he has time.”
“Yes, Your Majesty.” The servant hurried away and Bai Fen continued to look out of the window, waiting. Considering how that guy had behaved before, he should come over soon, using the opportunity to display his charm in front of her in the hope of her putting in a good word for him with Jing He. So most likely, she wouldn’t need to wait long.
Bai Fen was right about that. Even though the servant that had hurried over wasn’t able to find him immediately, Qiu Ling rushed to the Nine Heavens as soon as Xiang Yong was able to locate him and tell him what had happened. Hearing that his mother-in-law wanted to see him, Qiu Ling threw the flowers aside that he had picked and wanted to rush over, but stopped after a few steps. He went back to pick the flowers up again and then rushed to the Nine Heavens, landing right in front of Bai Fen’s palace.
Hearing the commotion outside of her palace when the guard started to yell at him, Bai Fen sighed. Whatever had happened at the festival, this Longjun was obviously back to acting as he had before. Well, maybe this had really just been Jing He’s misconception somehow. She couldn’t imagine that though. After all, her son had always been good at judging people. With how much he cared about his reputation, he had learned to observe everything about them. What they said or how they behaved, he wouldn’t miss out on any details. So if he felt that Longjun was behaving completely different from before, then there had to be something to that claim. This might really be Longjun acting in front of her son.
Bai Fen once again waved at one of her servants. “Go and let him in. I’ve invited Longjun so it would be in bad taste to have the guards try and fight him.”
“Yes, Your Majesty.” The servant went outside, calling out to Qiu Ling. “Welcome, Longjun. The Heavenly Empress is inviting you inside.”
Qiu Ling perked up and gave the guards a triumphant grin. See that? Hadn’t he said so? But no, they had felt as if they shouldn’t listen to him. This was completely their own fault! He hurried after the servant girl, smiling brightly at Bai Fen. “Mother-in-law! I hope you didn’t have to wait too long.”
Bai Fen smiled wryly. “I think I told the servant to tell Longjun that he could come by whenever he wanted and had time. I never said you had to come over immediately.”
Qiu Ling smiled happily and approached her, pushing the flowers toward her. “Ah, but if it’s my mother-in-law calling, then naturally, I’ll come over as soon as possible.”
Bai Fen nodded and motioned at the servant to take the flowers before she got up and nodded outside. “Longjun, why don’t you take a walk with me?”
Qiu Ling nodded and followed her into the garden.
Bai Fen looked at the person next to her, trying to see the mysterious maturity her son had mentioned. Needless to say, she failed miserably. This person … Where was he mature? That silly smile, the way he excitedly looked at her with bright eyes, waiting for what she had to say, how he had beaten up the guards before … Wasn’t he just as childish as ever?
Then just what had happened at the festival? Don’t tell her that this was really just Jing He’s misconception? No. That couldn’t be. Jing He wasn’t the kind of person that would get something like this wrong. No, he was meticulous with observing people. He was able to perceive from just a few clues what they thought about him and how he had to react. There was no way he would get something completely wrong.
Bai Fen sighed and stopped walking, turning to Qiu Ling who also paused in his steps. “Longjun, why don’t you tell me how things went on the day of the festival?”
Qiu Ling blinked his eyes. “The festival?” He thought back to the day and couldn’t help but smile even brighter. “Everything went great, mother-in-law. There is no need for you to worry. Jing He and I are getting along very, very well.”
Bai Fen gave a noncommittal hum. “Jing He told me a bit about it. I was … quite surprised. What he described didn’t really fit how I have experienced Longjun’s behavior up until now. Why do you think that might be?”
Qiu Ling stared at her for a moment and then turned to look at the garden. Looking at it this way, it seemed a lot like the one his beloved had. Ah, he really seemed very similar to his mother. “Maybe it’s that mother-in-law hasn’t seen everything of me yet.”
Bai Fen raised her brows. Even if she hadn’t seen everything of him, he wouldn’t want to try to say that he had a personality that incorporated these polar opposites, would he? Well, that certainly wasn’t something she could say. After all, even though this person seemed a little stupid and often acted like a brat that just wanted to gain her favor so he could marry her son, he was still the king of the dragon race.
Even if she had some things to say in regard to how he acted, some words couldn’t be spoken in front of him. After all, who knew if he wouldn’t mind after all? And even if he didn’t, there were still his advisers and his subjects. If word of it got out … Something like this might cause the alliance between the gods and the dragons to fall apart.
Even if she wanted to make sure that her son wouldn’t end up in a bad marriage, she couldn’t go too far. Still, she had to bring her main concern up. “Longjun, I do feel that you like my son a lot.”
Qiu Ling nodded eagerly. Of course, he did! Jing He was the love of his life. He would never like anybody as much as he liked him.
Bai Fen sighed. “I also said that I would help you if you were able to make him fall in love with you. Now, I also know that it isn’t easy. Jing He is somebody that wouldn’t easily fall in love. You will likely have to spend a lot more time than just this one year to make some progress.”
Qiu Ling looked at the ground. As much as he would like to say that he had already managed to make his beloved fall in love with him, he also felt that his mother-in-law wasn’t wrong. It really seemed not to be that easy. Even though he felt that his beloved had opened up to him, he probably wasn’t willing to marry him yet. What a pity! They were such a good fit …
Bai Fen watched his expression and couldn’t help but feel that her worry might be justified. “Longjun is very sure about his feelings for him. I can imagine that taking your time to woo him might be tedious for you. I can also imagine that you might want to speed things up. Certainly, catering to Jing He’s interests might help. But … I would like to ask you not to do so.”
Qiu Ling blinked his eyes. What was his mother-in-law talking about?
Seeing his expression Bai Fen felt a headache. This guy … He probably hadn’t thought too much about it. He had just seen that he wanted Jing He to fall in love with him and had done what he could to ensure that would happen. He hadn’t thought about the consequences at all. “Jing He might not have thought too much about what kind of person he’d like to marry before. But after you asked him to marry you and spent this much time with him, he’s bound to think it through. I guess by now, he has a very good grasp on what kind of husband he’d like to have.”
Qiu Ling perked up. Was his mother-in-law trying to say that his beloved was very sure he was the man of Jing He’s dreams?!
Bai Fen’s brows furrowed. It was plain to see just what the dragon king was thinking right now. Unfortunately, that something was very, very far away from what she meant. “Longjun, I’m trying to say that even if your personality doesn’t fit what Jing He wants, it wouldn’t be good for you to pretend to be different. Even if Jing He wouldn’t notice for the time being, even if men manage to end up married to him, that would just end in disaster. If he marries you only to find out that you are not the person you pretended to be before, he won’t be happy. If you truly love him, that can’t be what you want.”
Qiu Ling blinked his eyes and shook his head. “Of course not!” He certainly didn’t want his beloved to be unhappy. Not that he could imagine how his beloved would be able to be unhappy after they were married. He was such a great lover. Naturally, his beloved should be very happy being with him.
Bai Fen lightly touched her forehead, feeling like she wanted to shake it. This guy! Did he really not understand what she was trying to say? She lowered her hand and gave him a pointed glance. “Longjun, up until now, I have found you to be a very … amicable person. Somebody who is easy to get along with, who doesn’t think too much on matters and goes ahead with whatever he feels at that moment. I’m not sure if that really fits what Jing He wants to see in his future husband. So if you pretend to be somebody you’re not, he’ll be severely disappointed when he finds out the truth. I can only beseech you, don’t do this to my son, Longjun.”
Qiu Ling looked at the Heavenly Empress and the smile on his lips slowly diminished. He didn’t stop smiling but the radiance that had been there before dimmed so much that it was only hardly be made out anymore. “The Heavenly Empress doesn’t seem to think I’m very capable. You wouldn’t have forgotten that I’ve been sitting on the dragon realm’s throne even before your husband became the Heavenly Emperor, would you?”
Bai Fen’s eyes widened. She hadn’t been able to even imagine what her son had described before but right now, she suddenly saw a hint of that. The way he looked, the way he talked … This didn’t even seem to be the same person. From one moment to the other, his behavior had changed completely.
Qiu Ling turned away and looked up at the sky. “The gods might not notice it. The last war with the demons has been a long time ago. I was the one who killed the previous demon king. I was also standing in the front lines when the demons attacked in the time since then. They never reached the Nine Heavens. That is because of the alliance we have. You wouldn’t think that I don’t have the capability to sit on that throne, would you?” He glanced back at her, making Bai Fen tense.
To be honest, she had had trouble imagining things like that. Yes, maybe she had questioned whether he had the ability. Only now that he said these things outright, did she realize just how much she might have underestimated this man. It really was true. However he had behaved since he met Jing He, he had achieved many things for the dragon realm. In fact, his reign wasn’t any worse than the one of the previous dragon king who had been hailed as one of the most successful ones. This really was her oversight.
Bai Fen gave a strained smile and nodded, actually acknowledging his words. Whatever she did now, he had already noticed anyway. Why should she pretend it was different? That would only leave a bad taste in his mouth. “It seems there really are many things I don’t know about Longjun yet. You were right about that. I should apologize. I hope you can understand that other than being the Heavenly Empress, I’m also a worried mother. I just don’t want my son to be hurt.”
Qiu Ling gave a low hum. “I do understand. I don’t want him to be hurt either. And you can be sure that I would never willingly hurt him myself. On the contrary, whatever I can do to keep him safe and happy, I’ll do it.”
Bai Fen nodded. “I shouldn’t take up any more of your time then, Longjun. Thank you for being this honest with me today. As long as you’re not acting a role in front of my son to win his favor, I’m very happy. I hope you can be successful and truly manage to gain his heart. I feel that you might be a good partner for him.”
Qiu Ling nodded and then turned away, leaving the Heavenly Empress’ palace. He didn’t head over to Jing He’s palace as he had wanted to do originally though. No, this time, he actually returned to the dragon realm but the place he went to … even the dragons might have been surprised if they saw him there.