While Jing He was still at his uncle’s palace, deep in thought, An Bai rushed back to the dragon realm as fast as he could. He didn’t go to see his king though and instead went straight to Xiang Yong’s study, bursting through the door as soon as he had knocked.
The other dragon looked up from where he had been talking with Fu Heng and raised his brows at An Bai. “Did something happen for you to look like this?” Not to mention that he had never seen An Bai barge in without waiting for an answer and then giving an extra minute for the person inside to collect themselves.
An Bai parted his lips but then glanced at Fu Heng. “You’re busy? Then I could come back later?”
Xiang Yong also looked at Fu Heng and then at the documents on his table. “No … I think this should be all?”
Fu Heng nodded and got up. “Yes, that should be enough. If there is anything else, you know where to find me.”
Xiang Yong nodded and waited for Fu Heng to leave before he turned to An Bai. “So. What’s the matter?”
An Bai opened the door again and glanced outside to make sure that nobody was around. As soon as he closed it … he furrowed his brows. “I don’t think we should talk here. Let’s … let’s go somewhere else.”
Xiang Yong raised his brows again but still tidied up the documents and then followed An Bai outside. He couldn’t help but wonder what would be grave enough that he didn’t even dare to speak about it in the dragon king’s palace where they were surrounded by His Majesty’s closest aides. Was there any safer place?
Well, in the end, the two of them landed on the dragons’ cemetery.
Xiang Yong’s brows twitched when he looked at the old skeletons and the newer graves and he turned to An Bai. “Of all the places, you decided to come here?”
An Bai looked at him and wondered how he should explain but he could only sigh. “It’s not important as long as nobody hears what is being said. I feel like … this is a good place for that.”
Xiang Yong kept quiet and glanced around. There was indeed nobody around. Even if there was, in such a place, the person would be impossible to overlook. He still had trouble imagining something that was so dangerous that it couldn’t be overheard by anybody else — not even their king’s other advisers. After all, the one An Bai had tried to get around before was Fu Heng. They shouldn’t have any reason not to trust him.
He narrowed his eyes. Well, there might be one reason but Xiang Yong did not want to imagine that there was a traitor among the advisers. After so many years of working together, it would hurt too much to admit that. He still took a deep breath and prepared himself for the worst. “What is this about?”
An Bai glanced around uneasily and then stepped closer. “What do you know about His Majesty’s parents?”
Xiang Yong’s brows rose. “His father was Chun Yin, the previous king’s right-hand man and their generation’s best warrior if rumors can be trusted. Why?”
“Then what do you know about his mother?”
Xiang Yong narrowed his eyes. “Why are you asking like this? Both of them should be long dead. If somebody came to pretend to be from his family, then you should go and ask him. He would be better able to answer that question.”
“That’s not it. So what do you know?”
“Nothing much. She was some no-name woman. Probably quite pretty if she could make a man like Chun Yin marry her. Why?”
An Bai glanced around again and then inched even closer, lowering his voice at the same time. “I went to speak with the Son of Heaven today. We were talking about the other forms the dragons have. He was wondering if it was a taboo subject to bring up because His Majesty reacted strangely when he asked about it.”
Xiang Yong furrowed his brows. “That’s indeed a little strange but what does it have to do with his parents?” A dragon’s form depended on several factors. Their origin was one but not the only one and maybe not even the most important. And judging from the form their king normally used, there shouldn’t be anything wrong with his dragon form. Anyway, if his mother would have had some defect that he inherited, it might be a little embarrassing to show in front of the person he loved but still no reason to behave like this.
An Bai could imagine where Xiang Yong’s thoughts were going so he shook his head. If it was just a simple matter, he would never make such a fuss. No, this was serious. Deadly serious. “Nothing if looked at by itself. But when I went on to describe how our usual form and our dragon form correspond and pointed out how different colors and combinations of them would determine as how good-looking a dragon is seen as, he went on to mention that His Majesty’s eyes held a hint of red despite otherwise being black.”
Xiang Yong’s eyes widened. “You wouldn’t want to say …”
“I wouldn’t even want to believe it but I don’t have another explanation. So do you know anything about his mother? Anything else other than her being married to his father?”
Xiang Yong hesitated but then shook his head. “No, nothing. I never heard anything. There aren’t even rumors. It’s as if … she just appeared one day and then disappeared just the same.”
The two of them fell quiet, their expressions grave.
In the end, An Bai took a deep breath and then sighed. “In other words, our king could be of mixed blood. And he would have known about it from long before he ascended the throne.”
Xiang Yong glanced at him.
“Well, he never showed his dragon form. If what we think is true, then that would have been a way to hide it. After all, if there’s a hint of red in his eyes, it’ll likely show somewhere in his other form as well and more strongly at that. He would have been discovered as soon as he showed it.”
Xiang Yong nodded. “That’s true. As far as I know, he didn’t even use his dragon form in the war. Not even back then against the previous dragon king. He always used his other form. He never refrained from using his scales but he does have a habit of using a sword as well.” He raked a hand through his hair and paced up and down next to An Bai. “It never struck me as odd. His father was famed for his sword arts, the old king … the one before Longjun Jinde, was said to have personally instructed him and praised his skills. We can’t be sure how accurate that is since hardly anyone is still alive from that time but it would make sense. The disciples of the king are said to be more likely to inherit the throne and there were rumors of Longjun Jinde and our Longjun’s father fighting over the inheritance.”
“It couldn’t have been Chun Yin, right?”
Xiang Yong shook his head. “No. If Chun Yin wasn’t a pure-blooded dragon, we would have heard of that. His Majesty also …” Xiang Yong stopped himself and looked up at the sky. “Anyway, we need to find out if it’s true.”
“And what if it is? Do we … speak with the others? Expose him? Force him to abdicate?”
Xiang Yong glanced back and smiled. “You wouldn’t have come to me if that was what you wanted. To be honest, even though that might be for the best, I don’t think we should. His Majesty has reigned for so long and it was a very peaceful era. Even though he’s lazy and pretends to be an idiot so we won’t bother him, he has always fought on the front lines when the demons attacked. He has saved countless lives, he has made the demons so wary of us that they dare not attack. This kind of king …” He laughed. “Even if we found out that he was a full-blooded demon, I might still bend my knee in front of him and swear my loyalty. Not to speak of being a mere half-blood. And I don’t believe you think any different.”
An Bai nodded. “No, that was what I thought. If this is true … we have to hide the truth at all costs. Nobody can be allowed to find out. Not any of our people, not his other advisers, and especially not the gods.”