For a moment, Jing He panicked and had no idea how to deal with the situation. He couldn’t go out and he couldn’t stay inside either. Just what should he do?
For the first time in his life, he was in a situation where he was out of his wit. He really wished that there was somebody he could turn to, to ask for advice but even if he had such a person, it still wouldn’t be of any use at this time of the night. He could hardly take out a transmission stone and contact them to ask while the dragon king was standing right outside, could he? Then Longjun would hear everything.
In the end, Jing He sighed and then went to put on proper clothes. Even though the situation wasn’t ideal, it would be more than impolite to let a guest wait outside. He at least had to go outside to try to explain any assumptions the dragon king might have away. Then, it shouldn’t look as if he had really been interested in that stroll, should it? When that happened, he could just walk a few steps with him and then excuse himself again. Shouldn’t that work? At least ti sounded plausible.
Jing He pulled the cloak close that he had put on and then went to the door to the garden, pushing it open only to see the dragon king already waiting outside.
He wanted to say something but looking at him the words got stuck in his throat. Longjun … He seemed surprisingly impressive the way he was like right now.
The moonlight spilled onto his hair and clothes, accentuating the dark color and giving some highlights to the silver jewelry. His face was half covered in shadows while the other half was illuminated as well, showing off his good proportions.
Jing He caught himself staring and lowered his head. This hadn’t been supposed to happen. Unfortunately, he couldn’t deny it. His heart beat furiously and his breath had quickened. He had never felt like this in front of the dragon king.
Well, there had been a few times when he had been unable to deny that this man was good-looking or that he had a strong force of presence and there had also been situations he felt strangely … attracted to him. He couldn’t deny that.
It had never been like this though. Right now, he wasn’t even able to lift his gaze for fear of what might happen if he did. If he got caught up in the moment, if he … lost his heart. What then?
Unfortunately for Jing He, Qiu Ling had caught onto that split-second of admiration that flashed through his gaze. And he certainly wasn’t the type of person that would let go of such a prime opportunity.
He stepped closer and before Jing He could protest, he reached out and took his hands, his body’s warmth submitted to Jing He just from that light touch. He was standing right in front of him, making Jing He feel as if he was actually able to feel his breath on his cheeks. The sensation made his skin burn and he gulped unwittingly, his fingers slightly trembling.
Qiu Ling looked down at his hands, his own fingers caressing them as if he was afraid he might be cold and wanted to share his warmth with him. It only made it worse though.
Jing He didn’t know how to feel any longer. They hadn’t even taken the few steps he had wanted to give in to and he was already this confused. What would happen if he let him talk or if he let him accompany him for these few steps?
He didn’t know but he knew that he couldn’t let that happen. Because if he did … how would he continue then? It was too much of a risk, an unforeseeable future that he didn’t know he wanted. Neither did he know if he didn’t but … he was sure that he did not want to be put in the situation of having to choose.
Wouldn’t it be better if everything could stay the way it had always been? Visiting every day, coming by every second one, talking, drinking tea. Wasn’t that enough? Couldn’t it be enough?
He wanted to speak up but as if Qiu Ling had sensed what he wanted to do, he spoke up first.
“I hope you don’t feel ambushed. I just felt that since we didn’t see each other recently, it would be nice to have a few hours just to ourselves. If you don’t want to, it doesn’t have to mean anything. It’s just us spending time with each other. Nothing more, nothing less.”
At these words, Jing He couldn’t help but glance up after all. Was this really the same person that would try to bother him every day? Could he really say that it wouldn’t mean anything to spend a few hours together at night?
When he looked up, his gaze met Qiu Ling’s and for a while, he was spellbound. The dragon king’s dark eyes seemed even darker at night, the ink-black hair framed his face, a few strands dancing in the breeze. This image was tranquil and somehow solemn. He had seen a few glimpses of the dragon king being like this before but not this much. It was as if right now, he was his true self. The most perfect version of his that he could be. It was …
Jing He closed his eyes and took a deep breath before slowly exhaling.
What was he thinking about? He should not do this. He should tell him that the time indeed wasn’t appropriate and that he should return inside and that maybe they could meet up tomorrow instead just as he had imagined. He could maybe try to talk to his father or maybe ask his mother for help to make sure that his father wouldn’t go overboard. Wouldn’t that be better? Why did they have to change the way things were?
But at the same time, he was afraid. What Longjun had just said … did it mean his patience was running out? Would he give up on pursuing him and transfer his affections to somebody else? Would he soon hear of his wedding with somebody else if he pushed him away tonight?
Jing He cracked his eyes open and once again looked at the man in front of him. The dragon king. The ruler of a whole race. A handsome man. Maybe even the most handsome man of the immortal races as he always claimed. He was experienced and knowledgeable and when focused, he was also very charming, very … very attractive.
He was the ideal husband he had wished for.
But there were still so many things speaking against giving in to him and allowing this to happen: Longjun wasn’t a god. He hardly understood their customs and there would always be difficulties if they indeed joined together. His father was also against this union. And worst of all, he didn’t know how things would play out longterm.
What if it went wrong? What if the strong feelings Longjun had right now fizzled out after spending more time with him? Maybe after living together every day, seeing him every day, he would grow tired of him and pull back. Then what? With a man with such a fiery temper, he could never know if he wouldn’t fall in love with somebody else and cause a scandal. Where would he put his face then?
And even if it worked out, he was still scared. Loving this man … it truly was too scary.
“I’m here.” Qiu Ling shifted closer, no urgency in his movements or in his voice.
The light was falling right onto Jing He’s face, allowing him to see the minute shifts in his expression, how he was torn between two sides. It really made him wonder just what exactly was going on in his beloved’s head. It couldn’t be what he imagined it to be, could it?
“I should …” Jing He glanced to the side but he couldn’t finish the sentence. As soon as he tried, the fear of making this man give up on him returned once again.
Qiu Ling waited but Jing He never finished that sentence. “You should …” He took a deep breath and looked back down at that pair of elegant hands. “You should be careful where you step. It’s a little dark. I wouldn’t want you to get hurt. Why don’t you allow me to assist you?” He leaned closer and put an arm around Jing He’s waist, getting closer to him than he had in a long time.
When Jing He looked up with urgency written in his eyes, their lips came close enough that — if he just bent forward a little more — he could have kissed him.
Qiu Ling glanced at that pair of supple lips and then turned away, gently taking his hand and leading him forward, away from that palace where he normally stayed cooped up and out into the darkness of the night.