When Jing He reached the God of War’s palace, his uncle was drinking tea with An Bai. The two of them were looking at the steaming cups, not uttering a single word. It was an awkward sight to behold.
Jing He smiled lightly and stepped in, clearing his throat. “Uncle. Scholar An Bai.”
Qiang Yan got up with a relieved expression, hurrying over to greet him. “Jing He, you’ve come. Come on in then. Have a seat.” He conscientiously led his nephew to his own seat and made him sit down. Anyway, between a warrior, a frail scholar, and a prince, it was obvious who should be the one standing.
An Bai also got up. “Your Highness. I hope I wasn’t too presumptuous in waiting for you here. I felt that Your Highness had something to say so …”
“There is no need to worry. There was indeed something I wanted to say. I’m sorry for how things turned out before.”
An Bai smiled wryly. His own king had attacked him and tried to disfigure his face but the one to apologize was the Son of Heaven. He wasn’t sure if he should feel disappointed for his king’s behavior or feel gratified that the crown prince was familiar enough with his king to do something like this for him as if they already were a couple.
Jing He lowered his gaze at that reaction. He couldn’t help but feel that he had said something wrong. Both men had come to visit him but as for what happened between them, he had no say over that. They weren’t part of his race, after all. This was between the dragons even if he had been the reason for Longjun’s behavior.
Qiang Yan looked from one person to the other, feeling that things weren’t quite right. His nephew was normally so good at dealing with people. Why did it seem as if these two were about to descend into the same awkward silence he and An Bai had shared before?
He pondered and finally raised his brows. Most likely … what Jing He had wanted to ask about was related to the dragon king. And maybe he was embarrassed to speak about it in front of his own family?
He cleared his throat and motioned to the door. “I guess I’ll go and get another chair. Also, there doesn’t seem to be any more tea. Just make yourselves comfortable until I’m back.” He nodded and then rushed out of the room, only slowing down after he closed the door. He wondered what he should do and finally went over to his brother-in-law. If he couldn’t be there while these two had that conversation, then he definitely couldn’t allow that mother hen to go and bother Jing He. Otherwise, there would never be any feelings between Jing He and Longjun.
Back in the God of War’s palace, An Bai relaxed slightly when the God of War had left. “I presume there was something the Son of Heaven wanted to ask me originally?”
“Mn. It’s … nothing much, actually. It’s just that I couldn’t say it in front of Longjun.”
And apparently, also not in front of the God of War … An Bai couldn’t help but wonder what this question might be. “Well, now that we have the opportunity, please ask away. I’d be happy if I could be of help to Your Highness.”
Jing He nodded but still hesitated over how to begin. He rubbed the hem of his sleeve, his gaze thoughtful.
An Bai picked up his teacup and waited. Whatever it was, he didn’t mind. But after seeing him several times and spending a few hours with him each time, he somewhat understood the Son of Heaven. He was somebody who was very prudent. He wouldn’t say things he shouldn’t so naturally, he would think a little longer if he brought something up.
Jing He finally sighed. “I don’t quite know how to say this. Scholar An Bai might know that I spend yesterday with Longjun?”
An Bai didn’t know any specifics but he still nodded his head. These past two years, they had had even more trouble finding their king anywhere in the palace. Before, he had just hidden away somewhere because he didn’t want to work. Now, he would run over to the Nine Heavens every day to see the Son of Heaven or go somewhere else to prepare some surprise for him. The likelihood of that being the case yesterday as well was high.
“That’s good.” Jing He paused again. “Then did Longjun say anything about that?”
“No. He … wouldn’t disclose that type of details to me.”
“Oh.” Jing He couldn’t help but worry. If Longjun didn’t want his advisers to know … Or no, maybe he just didn’t want Scholar An Bai to know because they had spent time together in the past? Then should he really bring it up with him?
An Bai saw his tangled expression and wanted to sigh. Maybe he had said too much just now. “His Majesty is likely worried that you might feel … self-conscious if he brought these things up with us. But if there is anything you’d like to know, please bring it up. His Majesty isn’t … well, he doesn’t mind anybody knowing about these things in regard to himself. I probably don’t need to tell you this but he is very sure of his choice. He has already made up his mind about marrying you.”
Jing He’s cheeks reddened and he hurriedly picked up his teacup to take a sip, hoping that the steam would mask his reaction. Scholar An Bai was the last person he would have expected to say something like this.
An Bai did him the favor to look away but he still didn’t stop. “To be honest, as his advisers, we are happy to see this. His Majesty has always been alone all these years. Just the thought of him being able to find somebody to love and maybe bringing that person home with him one day, being able to share his burdens with him … just that thought makes us incredibly grateful to that person.” And, to be completely honest, they were also hoping that that person could keep him in check, thus allowing them to finally take a break from doing their king’s work.
Jing He lowered the cup, looking at An Bai with a complicated gaze. It seemed that even though Longjun didn’t share any details, his feelings were still very obvious to the rest of his people. It truly made him wonder why he had doubted his sincerity before?
Jing He sighed lightly. “Thank you for telling me this. To be honest, I am sometimes a little confused about these things. The dragons have … a very different approach to these things.”
“Did His Majesty say anything that … made you uncomfortable?”
Jing He shook his head. “No. Rather … I’m afraid that I said something I shouldn’t.”
An Bai looked back up at him and raised his brows. There was no possible scenario he could imagine where the Son of Heaven would say the wrong thing. Well, even if he did somehow manage to say something wrong, there was no way their king would be offended. He’d probably find it endearing and attribute it to the crown prince’s love for him or something. Dragons in love were a terrifying thing.
Still, even though he knew that, the crown prince wasn’t part of their race and didn’t understand the implications. It also wasn’t something that should be disclosed casually. After all, the consequences could be disastrous. “I’m sure that even if you did say something wrong, His Majesty wouldn’t mind too much. He is a generous man.”
Jing He looked at the dragon and couldn’t help but feel that this scholar was very forgiving. His own king had attacked him just a while ago but he was able to praise him like this.
An Bai coughed, understanding the crown prince’s gaze very well. “A man in love will naturally overlook some small grievances in regard to their beloved. Others might not be quite as lucky but Your Highness definitely does not need to worry. I gather that you’d like to know some more information though. Why don’t you tell me what exactly this is about?”
“Thank you for your help.” Jing He nodded before he started to explain. “Yesterday, we were talking about how the dragons had two different forms. Longjun … showed me his claws. He also answered several questions of mine. But when I asked about what the other form of a dragon looked like, he seemed a bit … evasive. I was wondering if that question was insensitive?”
An Bai tilted his head, not quite understanding. “Why would you think so?”
Jing He’s brows furrowed slightly. “I’m not sure. It’s just that … before that, he even seemed a little eager to explain but to that question he said that it was merely ‘a bunch of scales’ and that there wasn’t anything to see. I felt as if I had offended him. Could it be that … this is very personal? Maybe something that couldn’t be exposed in front of an outsider?”
An Bai looked at the Son of Heaven’s anxious expression and didn’t know how to react. In fact, there was nothing offensive about that question. On the contrary, he would have expected the king to happily show off. After all, which dragon wouldn’t want to impress their beloved with their dragon form? But the king hadn’t done that and with how everything else had gone between them, it truly was worth pondering just why he hadn’t done so.