Qiu Ling very happily prepared for his meeting with Jing He the next morning. He made sure to pick one of the robes he looked best in, picked out some fitting jewelry and then took some extra care to arrange his hair. Mn, this should work. He was definitely his most handsome self today too. Jing He would be delighted seeing him like this.
He gave himself a smile in the water mirror and then turned around, leaving the dragon realm without a gaze back. He made his way over to the Nine Heavens, once again evading the guards and stepping into the palace to take a look at Jing He. Currently, his beloved was sitting in front of his dressing table, combing his silky black hair.
Qiu Ling’s fingers twitched. He really wanted to walk over and take the comb from his hand, asking him to let him do his hair for him. Unfortunately, he was well aware that that wouldn’t be a mature thing to do. So he could only gulp that sentiment down and then step out again to make sure Jing He wouldn’t notice him.
Ah, such a beautiful sight! He definitely couldn’t be overly eager and greet him just so they could talk if that would rob him of the chance to watch this. Thus Qiu Ling stood in front of the door, half-hidden behind the wall from where he eagerly watched Jing He do his hair.
Jing He had no idea that he already wasn’t alone anymore. Meticulously, he combed one strand after the other, making sure that he took care of all of them equally. If he wasn’t wrong, then the dragon king seemed to like his hair. At the very least, he had seen him steal glances at it a few times over the past two years already. In that case, he should take special care to prepare himself today so he would leave a good impression.
Painting … It was a quiet activity. In the past, he wouldn’t have thought it fit this person but after everything that had happened in the last year, he wasn’t so sure anymore. Most likely, the dragon king was much deeper than he had thought.
Jing He put down the comb and opened a few chests holding hairpins. He looked at them, wondering just which one he should take. The robe he had chosen today was pastel green with beige-colored embroidery. Looking at it in the mirror, he felt that it was somewhat reminiscent of the leaves of a tree in spring. A green that had just unfolded, young and tender …
Speaking of tender … the age difference between them was rather big.
Jing He lowered his hand and stared at his image blankly. Longjun … Did he think of him as immature sometimes? Maybe that was the reason for his behavior? He had felt that he wasn’t mature enough but had liked him nonetheless so he tried to make himself appear younger? So he pretended for over a year and then thought that he couldn’t take it any longer? Could that be it?
Jing He tried to think back to all the occasions where they had met each other. If it was the private meetings here in his palace or in his garden, then it could be. But what about that first meeting at his father’s birthday banquet? That should have been the first time they saw each other. Furthermore, there had been many guests.
Would the dragon king really risk making a fool out of himself just to win his heart? In front of all the people? He could hardly imagine that. No, he was probably thinking too much. There had to be another explanation for the dragon king’s behavior.
Jing He shook his head at himself and finally picked a wooden hairpin. The tip was engraved with a few simple lines while the end was decorated with an artificial flower, the blossoms and leaves made out of thin pieces of jade. The craftsmanship was fine, the design lovely and befitting of his age. This should fit very well with the robe.
He held part of his hair back and then inserted the hairpin, securing the strands at the back of his head. He picked up the water mirror, trying to take a look and make sure that his appearance was sufficient. With the hair secured in the back, his face was revealed, accentuating his high cheekbones. It seemed youthful but not too young. It was obviously the appearance of somebody who was just maturing. Well, his coming-of-age ceremony hadn’t been that long past.
Jing He tilted the mirror to the side and froze. The surface reflected the other side of the room, including the door and the person that was standing there, unceremoniously staring at him.
Jing He’s hands shook and he put the mirror down, taking a shaky breath. Longjun … How long had he stood there already? Jing He folded his hands in his lap and then looked over as if by coincidence. Their gazes met and the greeting that had been on Jing He’s lips faltered. Those eyes … He couldn’t say anything. He could only look into them and wonder just what was going through Longjun’s head right now.
Qiu Ling looked back at him, his own heart pounding just the same. Ah, his beloved was too beautiful! Seeing him take so much care to groom himself, he couldn’t help but feel pleased. Wasn’t this because his beloved knew that they would be meeting up today?
Qiu Ling stepped out from behind the wall and walked into the palace, closing in on Jing He and stopping just one step away from him.
It had been a long time since Jing He felt any fear well up inside of him in front of this man but right now, he once again felt overwhelmed. His presence … That gaze … It seemed to take his breath away.
Qiu Ling slowly extended a hand but Jing He couldn’t react. He could only look at his face, barely noticing that hand. This man … How could he be like this? He was … a complete mystery to him. He couldn’t understand him. He couldn’t fathom his thoughts. But he wanted nothing more than to understand him. If he could, then maybe things would get easier. How was he supposed to decide his future if he couldn’t understand this man?
Qiu Ling bent down and just grabbed Jing He’s hand, pulling him to his feet. “Your Highness.”
His deep voice reverberated through the room, making Jing He’s skin tingle. This was a very nice voice. He knew that looking at a man that was courting him wouldn’t be in good taste but listening to his voice was different. He could do that for as long as he wanted without anybody being able to chastise him.
Jing He lowered his gaze and nodded. “Longjun. I … Didn’t expect you to arrive his early so I wasn’t prepared yet. I apologize for that. I’m afraid I made you see something shameful.”
Qiu Ling shook his head and covered that fair hand with his bigger one. “What is shameful about that? I only saw something very beautiful.”
Jing He’s heart thumped. He had never questioned whether he was beautiful and not. He was sure about his own appearance. And with the robes he picked, he was normally able to display his beauty to the fullest. With that knowledge, this kind of compliment had never meant anything to him. But right now, heat rushed to his cheeks when he heard those words.
Was this because the person talking to him like this was a suitor? Was it because of that voice? Or because he could still feel that that gaze hadn’t left his face even once? Maybe there was more sincerity in this gaze than he had ever felt from anybody before.
Seeing Jing He react like this, Qiu Ling stepped closer, his breath brushing Jing He’s skin. “Your Highness is taking meticulous care for your body. That is good.”
Jing He lightly glanced up, meeting the dark gaze once again. He wanted to answer but he didn’t know how. Just what was one supposed to say in response to something like this? Maybe it would be best if he could change the subject?
He lightly cleared his throat and tried to take his hand back. Qiu Ling sighed but willingly let go and even backed off a little, giving Jing He room to breathe.
“I’m afraid I was too entranced by your beauty just now. I forgot that I’m not supposed to do this.”
With the dragon king apologizing like this, there was no way for Jing He to say anything bad. Not that he would have dared to in the first place. This person couldn’t be chastised regardless of what he did.
“Longjun need not apologize. I do remember the differences between our races. Forgetting every now and then is to be expected.” He lowered his gaze again inwardly wondering whether the dragon king might take advantage of him saying this.
If it was a year ago, then he wouldn’t even wonder about that. Didn’t this man always do what he wanted? But right now, he somehow felt that this really had to be a lapse in attention. Looking at him, he couldn’t help but wonder if maybe everything the dragon king had to do, something this trivial might have just temporarily slipped his mind. That wouldn’t be strange, would it?
In fact, this man came over so often, it probably made quite a lot of trouble for him too. After all, he would still need to take care of his duties in the dragon realm. How much time could he have left for that if he came over every day and stayed for several hours? Paying him this much attention was already much more than he should ask for. It should be normal that he didn’t keep some things in mind every now and then with everything had to take note of.
Jing He couldn’t help but smile lightly. Even though this man was this busy, he still came here so often. That had to mean that he was very earnest in his pursuit, didn’t it? That kind of suitor … Wasn’t that exactly what he had wanted? Somebody who wouldn’t do this just because of his title but because he honestly wanted him? Somebody who might love him just how Tian had loved his Xing?
Jing He was happy at that thought. Qiu Ling was even happier seeing his beloved smile. He reached over and once again took his hand, feeling that it wasn’t too much at this moment.
“Since you don’t mind … I believe you promised me to paint together today. Should we go then?” He tugged at that hand as if he had only taken it to pull him over to the study.
Jing He looked up in a daze. He didn’t know what to say but his feet seemed to follow this man almost automatically. He couldn’t help but look up at his handsome profile and wondered what he was doing. If he continued like this … Wouldn’t things go out of hand soon?
They reached the study and Qiu Ling turned back around to him, flashing him half a smile. The way those lips curved made Jing He lower his gaze. Ah, it seemed things were already going out of hand right now. Otherwise, his heart shouldn’t beat like this. He truly had to rein his thoughts in soon. Otherwise, he feared this would end in disaster.