Qiu Ling felt as if he was floating. They had kissed. They had really kissed!
Alright, he had kissed his beloved’s cheek but that was still a big step in the right direction. Actually, this was more than a step. This was a leap! A leap of faith. This had to be his beloved’s way of telling him that his perseverance for the last two years hadn’t been without result. He was probably trying to tell him that he was already considering their future together in concrete ways.
Mn, right this very instant, he might be wondering about how to decorate their palace when he moved in with him. Ah, he didn’t have to worry. Whatever his beloved decided on, he wouldn’t have anything to complain about. His beloved’s taste was exquisite. Everything about his beloved was great.
Qiu Ling would’ve wanted to give him a kiss on the other cheek as well but he held back at the last moment. This was already a very good sign. He shouldn’t overdo it or his beloved might think that he wasn’t as mature as he pretended to be. No, a mature man should be able to hold back at such moments.
Thus Qiu Ling didn’t say anything about what had just happened and turned back to the table, pulling one of the bowls closer and giving his beloved a smile. “How about trying this as well? It’s a soup made of the white blossoms of the ever-changing eternal spring trees.”
Jing He could hardly concentrate on what Qiu Ling was saying. How was he able to just forget about what had happened? Could he really pretend that everything was normal? But it wasn’t at all! They had … Longjun had kissed his cheek. That was far more intimate than anything that had happened before. And that even on the day when his father had forbidden him to see this man again! Even if nobody else knew, he himself would also feel strange thinking about it.
Qiu Ling glanced at his beloved and couldn’t help but see that his expression wasn’t quite right. “What is it? You don’t like it?” He looked at the bowl in a daze, feeling that it was actually looking quite good. The smell of flowers was also really nice. But, well, if his beloved didn’t like it, then he didn’t have to eat it.
He put the bowl down and flashed another smile. “It’s not a problem at all. I’m sure there’s something else that you would prefer. How about some pastries?” He picked up a plate with an assortment of different snacks and motioned at a handful that had been arranged in a circle. “It’s called a Touch of Beauty. Uh …” Qiu Ling’s brows twitched. “Well, it’s not as strange as it sounds. You see each individual cake is shaped like the claw of a dragon. And there’s five like the claws a dragon would have on their hand. And they’re supposed to look beautiful so it’s like … like the hand of a beauty that touches you, you know?” He glanced at Jing He to try and see if he had understood that explanation. Actually, that name was ridiculous, wasn’t it? He should write some edict or something to have it changed to another name tomorrow.
Jing He finally managed to pull himself out of his worries. He couldn’t change what had happened. The kiss had already been given so he could only live with that fact. Anyway, Longjun was trying very hard to move on. And it wasn’t like he hadn’t already seen several times that Longjun would sometimes be a little too straightforward. It shouldn’t be that much of a surprise to him that something like this could happen. So in that case, it was best if he pretended with him that everything was normal. “That … That is an interesting story.”
Qiu Ling beamed. His beloved didn’t mind the strange name? Great! “Then … Do you want to try one?” He pushed the plate closer and Jing He carefully picked one up, taking a delicate bite.
Qiu Ling watched him, feeling elated. Ah, his beloved was so beautiful! He always was but he was especially elegant when eating like this. He could watch him do this all the time.
Jing He, on the other hand, felt self-conscious when he was watched like this. He glanced at Qiu Ling but his gaze swept over his lips and he didn’t dare to look any longer. He forced himself to turn to the plate and look at the other pastries making up the dish. It was lying at the edge of the plate and he couldn’t help but notice Qiu Ling’s finger next to it. “May I ask something?”
Qiu Ling nodded. “Sure. What is it about?”
Jing He once again looked from that hand to the cakes and then at the one in his fingers. “I hope this isn’t insensitive but I noticed that even though you just said that the pastries were shaped like the claws of a dragon, Longjun doesn’t really …” His gaze slipped back to the finger at the edge of the plate and he glanced up again.
Qiu Ling also looked down, raising his other hand and taking a look at his nails. “Claws, you mean?”
Jing He nodded. “Yes. So …” He didn’t know how to ask any further. He had thought that talking would dispel the last bits of awkwardness between them but maybe he had chosen a bad question to achieve that goal.
Qiu Ling didn’t mind the question though. “Well, we do have two forms. In our dragon form, you can naturally see the claws. In this form, you won’t necessarily. It’s like … We can decide whether we want to show them or not. It’s the same with our scales, actually. The dragon form is densely packed with them but in this form, you normally wouldn’t see them. Our bodies are tougher than those of the gods but not to an exaggerated point if we don’t make a conscious effort to use our scales for defense.”
Jing He lowered the pastry in his hand and took a closer look at Qiu Ling’s hands. To be honest, he couldn’t really imagine. If this was anybody else, he might’ve asked but he felt awkward with it being this man who had pursued him. Asking about his body … seemed to be shameless.
Qiu Ling noticed his gaze though and felt happy that he had his beloved’s full attention. If he could, he would naturally try to keep it for as long as he could. “Do you want to see it?” He didn’t give him any time to respond and his nails changed into a set of shiny black claws. The tip was sharp and the sun glinted on the surface, making it seem extremely smooth.
Jing He looked at them in a daze, before glancing over at Qiu Ling’s other hand. That one still showed his fingernails. Apparently, dragons were able to use the claws on their hands independently.
Qiu Ling turned his hand and flexed his fingers, hoping to show off. “You can touch them if you want to.”
Jing He continued to look at them, feeling that he would actually like to have a try. But how could he do that? It wasn’t just touching a dragon’s claw. Those were the claws of a living person and even one that had gotten so close to him before. “That’s … That wouldn’t be very appropriate, would it?”
Qiu Ling had never cared for what was appropriate and what wasn’t. He reached over, holding those claws in front of Jing He. “Just be careful. They’re sharp.”
Jing He hesitated but then reached out, touching one of the claws with the tip of his forefinger. He only brushed against it lightly but it was enough to feel that what seemed like a smooth surface had actually very fine lines on it. Jing He retracted his hand and nodded. “Thank you. I’m glad that Longjun didn’t take offense at me asking such things.”
Qiu Ling shook his head but didn’t retract his hand. He took back his claws though, for fear of hurting Jing He accidentally. “It’s nothing much. For us dragons, our other form is a completely natural thing. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, it’s something we’re very proud of.”
Jing He nodded, looking at that hand and then to the pastries that had even been formed like the claws. “I can see that. It seems to be deeply ingrained in every aspect of the dragons’ lives.” It wasn’t a wonder after everything he had heard about them so far. Considering what Scholar An Bai had told him, the dragons defined themselves through their strength. This type of claws, it would be a very useful weapon. They wouldn’t be shy with showing them off. That made him wonder though … “May I ask something else?”
Qiu Ling happily nodded. “Sure, go ahead!”
Jing He silently heaved a sigh of relief when he saw that Qiu Ling didn’t mind at all. “Well, I have understood that the dragons care very much about strength. But while interacting with Longjun, I’ve also noticed that you paid a lot of attention to … your appearance. I was wondering how the two of them went together.
“You see, my uncle is the God of War. Not to say that he wouldn’t be paying attention to his appearance but I have noticed that he paid most attention to practicability. A simple robe would always win over an embellished one for him. So how is that for Longjun? You did not seem to have such reservations.”
Qiu Ling’s expression lit up. Ah, his beloved had actually noticed how handsome he was! This really had to be the best day of his life.