Qiu Ling pretended not to see Jing He’s worried expression. Anyway, his beloved was almost always worried so if he always reconsidered just because he thought something like this, they would never get anywhere. No, it was much better to be a little more adventurous and give it a try. Anyway, this didn’t seem like such a frivolous thing to do.
The two of them stopped at the edge of the lake and exchanged a glance. Jing He’s heart thumped but he didn’t know what to say. Should he ask Qiu Ling to turn back? But that would also cut their stroll short. It probably wouldn’t be very nice. On the other hand, if he stayed quiet, then who knew what would happen next? With the kind of ideas that Qiu Ling would sometimes come up with, he really didn’t know what to expect.
Qiu Ling watched Jing He’s expression with interest and almost wanted to laugh. From the way Jing He looked at him right now, one might even assume he was expecting him to ask to go skinny-dipping the very next moment. Well, even if he was very open-minded, he also didn’t think that that would be a good idea. What if somebody saw, after all?
Qiu Ling motioned over to a spot on the other side of the lake. “There’s a boat.”
Jing He glanced over and there was indeed a small boat tied to the tree there. Relief flooded his expression and he almost heaved a sigh of relief. So that was all that the dragon king had thought of. That probably wasn’t too bad?
Qiu Ling waved his hand with a smile and the boat shook, slowly gliding over the surface of the lake toward them. “Well, since we’re already here, how about staying for a while?”
The boat reached the shore and stopped in front of them, slowly turning around so that they could easily get in. Jing He looked at Qiu Ling with slight hesitation but then nodded. Anyway, whether it was strolling together at night all alone or sitting in this boat, his father would find it unacceptable. He just had to make sure that he did not hear about it.
Qiu Ling helped Jing He into the boat and then sat down next to him. The water below the boat rippled and they slowly drifted away from the shore.
Jing He couldn’t help but smile at that. “I had thought that one was supposed to row the boat.”
Qiu Ling nodded unabashedly. “I think that is the idea. But then again, what’s the use in that? This way, we can focus on each other. Isn’t that much better?”
Jing He looked at the person sitting next to him and then turned away, taking a shaky breath. Focus on the person he was with … It would be good if there was something hindering him from that. It was already much too noticeable. After all, what else was there to occupy his mind?
The sky was dark with only the stars lending their light, save for the rippling water everything was quiet and in the middle of the lake, the only warmth he felt came from the body next to his. It was more than enough to draw his attention to this person, wasn’t it? Did they really need to get even closer?
Qiu Ling watched as Jing He turned away, seemingly showing him the cold shoulder. It seemed that he had gone a little too far just now? He cleared his throat and then searched for something he could say to make things less awkward. “So …” With his gaze roaming around, the only thing he noticed was still the water around them and that was rippling from the use of his magic. “I’ve noticed that despite knowing each other for quite a long time, I’ve never seen Your Highness use your magic. It wouldn’t be that the gods don’t like using their gifts?”
In fact, this was something he had indeed wondered about. After all, among all three races, the gods were the ones that had been blessed with the best magical abilities. While the dragons and demons were limited in what they could do, the gods were able to use all six elements. But Jing He had never done so. That was a little odd.
Naturally, he would not expect that there was anything wrong with his beloved. Instead, he felt like it must have something to do with how the gods normally behaved. That was the only explanation he could find.
With this topic brought up, Jing He did indeed turn back around to Qiu Ling. As long as there was something to occupy his thoughts, there was nothing too awkward about this. “I’m afraid, it is not that there is a special reason. I guess that there was just never really a moment where I had to use it in all this time?”
Qiu Ling wasn’t quite sure what to think of that. Just thinking of how he himself would use his magic, he felt like they were reasons to do so almost every other day. What if the temperature wasn’t nice or he wanted to do something like this? Just traveling on water without having to pay too much attention? Weren’t that already good reasons to use his magic?
Jing He shook his head at Qiu Ling’s expression. “Longjun knows very well how I live. Normally, I will spend most of my time at my own palace, tending to my garden, maybe painting. What could require me to use my magic? Maybe it’s getting a little water for my plants or to loosen the soil so they can grow better. But isn’t that all? I’ve certainly done that a few times in these years since we’ve come to know each other but you probably weren’t around at that time.”
Qiu Ling pondered and had to admit that Jing He was right. For him, there probably weren’t too many times when he felt that there was a reason for him to use magic. But even then … “What about when we just met? I did cross some lines at that time, didn’t I? But you never tried to push me back with your magic. I would think it was because the gods were more … reserved but your father did just that.”
Jing He’s cheeks flushed red thinking of that day when his father had actually attacked the dragon king. “That … I’m sure my father didn’t mean it that way.”
Qiu Ling raised his brows. “Your father was of the opinion that somebody was taking advantage of you. I sure hope that he did mean it that way. Otherwise, I would be very troubled. What if somebody else came and tried to do the same?” He leaned closer, a brilliant smile on his lips that made whatever words Jing He had wanted to utter get stuck in his throat.
This man … He wasn’t trying to imply that he would be worried about anybody but himself taking advantage of him, would he?
Seeing Jing He this flustered, Qiu Ling couldn’t resist and leaned even closer. His breath caressed Jing He’s cheek and the atmosphere between them turned tense.
Jing He took a shaky breath and tried to return to the previous subject. “Anyway, while there aren’t many reasons for me to use my magic, I also think that there is a certain beauty to doing things without. It makes me appreciate some things more.”
Qiu Ling gave a hum while his gaze stayed trained on Jing He’s face. Seeing the crown prince constantly try to evade his gaze, he felt a bit like a rogue but he didn’t regret it at all. If his beloved didn’t feel even the least bit for him, he wouldn’t react like this, would he? Thus he could not help but go a little further. “So would you have been more impressed if I had rowed the boat?”
“I …” Jing He’s gaze once again shifted from side to side. He really couldn’t understand what it was tonight. Could it be that the dragon king was even more outgoing than usual because of the darkness? Then maybe he really should have asked to return to his palace earlier …
“I would do that for you, you know.”
Jing He lightly cleared his throat. “That … That’s not necessary, Longjun.”
“No? So you want to say that you’re already impressed by me?”
Jing He didn’t dare to answer that. Saying no would be impolite but saying yes … He did not dare to let the dragon king make any assumptions.
Qiu Ling reached out and brushed back Jing He’s hair, letting the satiny strands brush over his fingers. “Does that mean you’re not impressed but also don’t want me to try to impress you by rowing the boat? Then maybe you want me to do it in another way?”
“Sh.” Qiu Ling hushed him, his fingertip brushing Jing He’s lips. “It’s alright. Let me try something different then.”
He took back his hand but before Jing He could say that he hadn’t meant it like that, Qiu Ling already waved. His magic surged and the water around them rippled once again. Thousands of tiny droplets slowly soared into the air, surrounding the boat like pearls that shimmered brightly in the moonlight.
The words that had already been at the tip of Jing He’s tongue got stuck once again and he just breathlessly stared at this spectacle above the lake.
Qiu Ling lightly reached over and grabbed his shoulder, pulling him into his arms. “What do you say now? Finally impressed?”
Jing He nodded in a daze. Yes. Yes, he was indeed impressed. There was no way he wouldn’t be. This was just … too beautiful not to be.