As the person looking at things from outside, An Bai had no trouble seeing the thoughts that went through the head of these two people: His king very obviously had ‘I can’t let some wild man take advantage of my beloved!’ written on his frown while the crown prince’s slightly widened eyes spelled out his worry of being a bad host. It seemed the only person that could solve this troublesome situation was he himself.
An Bai lightly cleared his throat, drawing Jing He’s attention back to himself. “There is no need for Your Highness to bother yourself with such things. I originally came to talk a bit but seeing that you already have a guest, it would be rude to intrude. I’ll take my leave for now.”
Jing He held the teapot, somewhat at a loss. The people that had come to visit him were the dragon king and one of his advisers. So why did Scholar An Bai look as if he wanted to run away? Furthermore … he had wanted to ask him about his questions from yesterday. Even though he could hardly do that in front of Longjun, he still didn’t want to let this opportunity slip through his fingers without making sure that Scholar An Bai would return soon.
Thinking of that, he gave a smile and walked over to An Bai with the teapot still in his hands. “That is a pity. Scholar An Bai hasn’t come by in a while. I was happy to see you again. Maybe you would like to return tomorrow? I’ll make sure to be able to receive you then.”
Behind him, Qiu Ling sat up straighter, his whole body tense. His beloved … was inviting another man to visit him? How could that be?! This … this couldn’t be true!
He got up and inched closer. He had to get to the bottom of this! Maybe that asshole had somehow pressured him into this? Or maybe he had been seducing Jing He behind his back using that scholarly talk as a guise? Anyway, he deserved to be beaten up for that!
Qiu Ling narrowed his eyes and stretched his fingers, cracking his knuckles in anticipation.
An Bai gulped and looked back at Jing He. “That … I’ll see if it’s possible.”
An Bai thought that he had done very well with circumventing to give an answer but Qiu Ling wasn’t happy yet. “You don’t have time. Wasn’t there that … important thing you had to do tomorrow?”
An Bai was startled and tried to remember if there had been anything tomorrow but he couldn’t come up with anything. Most likely … there was nothing at all? Yes, most likely, his king just wanted to prevent him from meeting up with the Son of Heaven.
“Ah, yes, now that Your Majesty mentions it, it seems there really was such a matter.” He glanced at Jing He who was looking at him questioningly and gave a wry smile. “I’m sorry, Your Highness. I’m afraid I won’t be able to make it tomorrow.”
Jing He nodded understandingly. “Then what about the day after that?”
An Bai stared at him, not quite sure how he should react. Since when was the Son of Heaven this … insistent? That certainly didn’t fit the image he had of him. “That day …”
Once again, Qiu Ling interrupted him. “That day also won’t be possible! Don’t you have a … meeting with … one of the others?” He really couldn’t think of the names just now. He had to make sure that his beloved wouldn’t be stolen away. How could he think about such trifling matters as the names of his advisers?
An Bai’s smile grew even more strained. “Right, I promised Xiang Yong to meet up that day to discuss some matters. Your Highness might remember him. He was accompanying His Majesty on the day of Tianjun’s birthday banquet that year?” There was no need to say which year he was talking about. There was only one banquet that was worth mentioning.
Jing He nodded. “Mn, I do remember. If I’m not wrong, adviser Xiang Yong also visited the Nine Heavens another time a few days after that?”
“Yes.” An Bai looked away but refused to say more than that. Back then, they had come over to deliver the phoenix feather to the Heavenly Emperor to make up for their king’s behavior. That kind of inglorious past … he really didn’t have to remind the Son of Heaven, did he?
Not speaking was awkward though so he cleared his throat. “Well, the next few days I’ll be busy but I’m sure there’ll be some chance in the future. If Your Highness has a specific question, you can always send somebody to ask me over.”
“Thank you very much. I appreciate Scholar An Bai’s help.” Jing He’s usual smile widened slightly, making the person behind him completely lose his calm.
This bastard had really dared to seduce his beloved!
Qiu Ling jumped out and grabbed An Bai by the lapel, pulling him to the door to the garden. “Let’s have a fight!”
“Ah?” Even An Bai didn’t have any words in response to that. Hadn’t he just tried to bid his farewell? Why was his king suddenly pulling him in the other direction? Before he could try to understand further, he was already pushed into the free space in front of the flower beds, staggering a few steps back. “Your Majesty …”
Qiu Ling furrowed his brows. “You better dodge well if you don’t want your face to get disfigured!” His claws appeared and he jumped at An Bai, not giving him any chance to prepare.
An Bai stumbled out of the way, his eyes going wide. The king had really gone for his face just now! Don’t tell him … He glanced at the Son of Heaven who had run after him and looked on with a frightened expression. Most likely, his king felt threatened in his pursuit of the crown prince and was trying to eliminate a love rival? With how their race valued beauty, disfiguring his face would indeed be a good way to diminish his chances.
It was just … He wasn’t even interested, ah! The crown prince was a beautiful person. He was knowledgeable and willing to learn and a great partner for a conversation. But if he felt anything in his heart when interacting with him, then it was only some admiration for a like-minded scholar. There were no deeper feelings involved.
Qiu Ling’s eyes blazed when he saw An Bai dare to look at his beloved again. Sure enough, this guy was trying to use the good feelings he had cultivated with him!
He raised his hand and wanted to attack again but a call from behind him made him hesitate.
“Longjun!” Jing He’s voice sounded urgent and he really felt anxious inside. He hadn’t paid attention to Qiu Ling just now so he hadn’t noticed but he was well enough aware of the dragon king’s feelings for him and able to read the cues now that he looked that he could see that this was because of him.
Scholar An Bai had come over for his sake and he had been the one to hold him back because he wanted to ask him that question. How could he let him get hurt now? No, he had to do something.
Seeing that Qiu Ling didn’t continue to attack but was still staring at An Bai, Jing He hurried forward, stopping next to the dragon king. He glanced at his stormy expression before he lowered his gaze and folded his hands in front of his body.
“Longjun, I …”
Qiu Ling tensed and the hand that wasn’t used to attack An Bai clenched into a fist. His beloved wouldn’t want to confess his feelings for An Bai, would he? If he did … He glared at that adviser of his, making An Bai tense.
Jing He saw that Qiu Ling’s expression got even worse and his heart beat furiously. He wouldn’t have thought … Well, he had known that the dragon king liked him but he wouldn’t have thought that he held such sway over his heart.
For a moment, Jing He didn’t know how to react. For the two-thousand years of his life, he had only ever been at the mercy of others despite his status. He had to fulfill his father’s wishes, had to conform to the expectations of the gods, had to entertain their guests at official festivities. He had never been in power of his own fate, his own life. Much less that of another person.
But now … One glance was enough to see that each word he spoke, each smile or look he gave, each movement he made was able to influence the thoughts of this person. It confused him. It completely puzzled him to the point where he didn’t know how to continue even though he knew that it was on him to stop this.
Qiu Ling tensed up even further when he didn’t hear his beloved continue to speak. He mechanically turned around, looking at him with worry. Just what did his beloved want to say?
Jing He was startled out of his thoughts by that gaze. He flinched and then looked away again, his cheeks flushing red. Being found staring at him … He cleared his throat and tugged at his sleeve to find something to hold onto. “This … I …” He stumbled over his words and gave Qiu Ling another glance. At the very least, the dragon king didn’t look like he wanted to attack his adviser anymore. Jing He continued to look, still not sure what to say but he didn’t even need to.
A certain someone was crazy enough in love to be able to fill in all of his thoughts and unspoken words by himself. He also looked at Jing He and finally, his gaze lit up. He stepped closer and reached out, once again breaking the taboo and taking Jing He’s hand. “My love, could it be … you’re worried about me? You don’t need to. I’m much stronger than him.”
Jing He requited that fervent gaze and finally nodded. He felt a little complicated but … this was probably the best way to get out of this? And with how things had proceeded so far, there might still be a chance for them to end up as spouses, wasn’t there? Even if there wasn’t, he first had to help Scholar An Bai out of the situation he had created. “En. Longjun is … hailed as the strongest fighter of the dragon race. Naturally, there isn’t a reason to worry about your safety.” His cheeks flushed further when he said so. This truly was too embarrassing!
Qiu Ling’s gaze became gentle and he stepped even closer, reaching out with his other hand and almost pulling the other person into his arms. This had to be … a show of his beloved’s love for him! Yes, he was just too shy to say it directly but even though he knew that there was no need to worry, he couldn’t help it when he saw him about to be embroiled in a fight.
Mn … It truly felt great to be loved.