Qiu Ling didn’t talk with anybody about what the Heavenly Empress had told him or what he had gone to do afterward. For the most part, he still seemed to be the very same person that wouldn’t really care about what was going on in the dragon realm and threw all his tasks to his advisers, not bothering with his responsibilities as king at all and only running over to the Nine Heavens to try his luck with winning the Son of Heaven’s heart.
As soon as he appeared in front of Jing He though, his demeanor changed. That happy-go-lucky person that wouldn’t take anything seriously suddenly lost his goofy smile and looked at his beloved earnestly, his gaze deep and his lips raised into a slight smile that could hardly be seen if one didn’t look too closely. Nothing was outwardly different about him but the energy he gave off seemed to be the complete opposite from before.
Jing He who had always prided himself on being able to understand the people around him, guessing their thoughts about him and predicting their actions … This person who had thought he could understand the people was utterly befuddled by the dragon king’s behavior.
At first, he had thought that the dragon king had made an effort for the festival and tried to be more serious since he knew it was an important occasion. But by now, another year had gone by and nothing had changed about Qiu Ling’s behavior. He was still like the person from the day of the festival: A mature man with a reassuring presence that inexplicably calmed him down but still made his heart jump once in a while.
Just what did this mean?
Jing He thought hard but he couldn’t figure it out. This person … He felt like he had never known him in the first year after they met each other. Apparently, Longjun was quite different from what he had thought.
This kind of difference, he couldn’t help but feel that it was very good. The way the dragon king behaved right now was truly how a king should be. And that type of man, he also felt better being pursued by him. If it was the previous Qiu Ling, then there was no way for him to feel completely at ease considering the future. After all, he wanted a husband that matched him in all regards. But with how Qiu Ling was right now, things were different. Yes, if the dragon king was like this, then he could consider it. He felt that they made a good couple. The only problem was still their race.
Qiu Ling could also feel that things were different now. Jing He had never slighted him in the past and always been an attentive host when he came over but if he truly thought about it, then he could also tell that he had been a bit … perfunctory. It was probably that he knew he had to treat him well because of the alliance between their races but it hadn’t been that he wanted to treat him well because he was interested. Now, things were slowly changing. In that case … He should probably make use of the situation?
Qiu Ling glanced at the person watering the flowers next to him. Even though another year had gone by, nothing had changed about how they spend their time. He would come over and accompany Jing He while he tended to his garden, then they would drink some tea in the pavilion, looking out at the beautiful flowers or, in his case, at the beautiful person in front of him and finally, he would reluctantly leave and return to the dragon realm. The next day, things would go the same way.
It wasn’t that he didn’t want to do things differently but he hadn’t been sure if it was welcome. Who knew if the Heavenly Empress hadn’t said something to Jing He? Maybe he was feeling that he behaved strangely and wouldn’t be at ease if he did more? But now, it seemed that he had thought too much. If he still didn’t do something now, when would he? It couldn’t go on like this forever. No, he had to strike before somebody else did. After all, there were a lot of men in the immortal realms that were interested in his beloved!
The two of them reached the last patch of the garden and Jing He lowered the jar in his hands, looking up at Qiu Ling. “I’ve finished. I hope I didn’t make Longjun wait for too long.”
Qiu Ling smiled slightly. This kind of phrase … He had heard it very often in the past year. There would be some slight variation to it, probably because Jing He felt that he couldn’t make it sound as if he had just learned that one phrase by heart and gave it in a perfunctory manner. Still, he essentially told him the same thing every day. Qiu Ling shook his head. “Nothing of the like. It is quite beautiful to watch.”
Jing He’s eyelashes trembled and he quickly glanced up before looking at the jar in his hands again. Beautiful … Was he talking about the garden or … Qiu Ling didn’t offer any explanation and Jing He didn’t dare to assume. He just pretended not to have heard and changed the subject. “We’ve been out here for a long time. Maybe Longjun would care for a cup of tea?”
Qiu Ling nodded and turned to the pavilion. He didn’t try to take Jing He’s hand as he had done in the past. After all, he already knew that it wouldn’t be appreciated. Why should he set himself up for rejection? If he did that too often, then who knew if it wouldn’t get stuck in his beloved’s head? No, it was still better to say things that would make him agree. “The crown prince’s tea has always been very good. I certainly wouldn’t reject such an offer.”
Jing He nodded and the two of them quietly walked to the pavilion side-by-side. Jing He prepared the tea and poured two cups while Qiu Ling’s gaze followed him, his dark eyes taking in every slight motion.
Jing He put one of the cups in front of him and turned to the other side of the table, taking a shaky breath before he sat down and took his own cup. This way of looking at him … He truly felt a little strange being subjected to it. It wasn’t as if right the next moment, the dragon king would pounce on him. Then again, this didn’t seem to be the same person as last year anymore. Maybe he was thinking too much.
Qiu Ling lowered his gaze and picked up the cup, looking at the bright color of the tea. This time, it was a fiery orange like the color of the sun at dawn. Quite beautiful. “Your Highness … Taking care of the garden every day, did you ever feel that it was boring?”
Jing He glanced over before he lowered his gaze again. “It is a task that has to be done with diligence.”
“We’ve known each other for about two years now and I haven’t seen you miss out on even a single day. That certainly can be called diligence. Still, wouldn’t it be nice to take a break from time to time and do something different?”
Jing He hesitated. Do something different … “Well, it isn’t that I’m only tending to the garden.”
“Is that so? I’ve never seen you do anything else. What does Your Highness spend time with if you don’t?”
Jing He gave a small smile. “Well, I do like to paint.” He still remembered what Scholar An Bai had told him back then about the interests of the dragon king. Bringing something up that he also cared about should be the right decision, shouldn’t it? “It’s just that it would be rather rude of me to paint while Longjun is here, wouldn’t it? So you never saw me do so.”
Qiu Ling’s lips curled up. Naturally, he knew very well that Jing He liked to draw and had seen it many times. After all, he had spent a lot of time observing him. If he still didn’t know something this obvious, he really would have wasted his time! Naturally, he couldn’t say that. “What a coincidence! I also like to paint. Maybe … Your Highness would like to paint together one day?”
Once again, Jing He didn’t know how to react. Why did the dragon king sound as if this was a surprise? Hadn’t they talked about him liking to paint already? He did remember asking him to paint for him instead of doing something dangerous like killing that golden-tailed Heaven Climber …
Well, never mind that. There was something more important. Painting together … That shouldn’t be a problem, should it? After all, painting was a very scholarly activity. Nobody should have anything against it if they painted together, right?
He glanced up at the person opposite him and tried to imagine the scene. Sitting next to each other, quietly moving the brushes, spending time together in comfortable silence … His heart thumped at the thought. No, maybe that wasn’t such a good idea. Unfortunately, he couldn’t say that. There was nothing wrong about this proposal so he could only nod. “That’s a good idea. We should do that sometime.”
Qiu Ling smile grew even more pronounced and his eyes curved into crescents. “How about tomorrow?” He almost bit his tongue as soon as the words were out. That … That had probably sounded a little too eager, hadn’t it?
Indeed. Jing He looked up and his brows raised imperceptibly. Just now … He had somehow felt that the dragon king had reverted to his old self, making him feel even stranger. This person … How come he was so mature and even-tempered one time and then suddenly had such an outburst of excitement the next? He really didn’t know what to make of that. Still, he gave a smile and nodded. “That sounds lovely. Let’s do that then.” After all, if he said no, then wouldn’t that be impolite?