Jing He was still silently waiting inside his palace when the voices of the guards from outside reached his ears.
“Greetings, Your Majesty!”
There wasn’t an answer and then, his father burst through the door and rushed around the screen behind it, running over to him with a bright smile. “Jing He, my dear son! I heard that you had missed me and asked to see me.” He grabbed his hands, his smile seeming to become even brighter.
Jing He smiled back slightly. “Father, why did you come over on your own? This makes me feel disrespectful. It should have been me who went over to your palace to see you.”
Rong Su didn’t care at all. The most important thing was that he was able to see his son. Whether his son came over to see him or he came here to see his son, it was all the same to him. “Let’s not speak about that. I’m just happy to be here.”
Jing He continued to smile lightly and then motioned at the chair on the opposite side of the table. “Why don’t you have a seat, father? Should I make some tea?”
Rong Su waved but still sat down. “Why don’t you ask the servants to make us some tea?”
Jing He glanced at his father, wondering if he had actually forgotten that he didn’t have any servants around. “Ah, how could I do that? I’m your son. Isn’t it only right that I take care of your needs?” He got up and walked over to the cupboard, starting to prepare the tea. Inwardly, he couldn’t help but sigh to himself. His father was so excited to see him. He wasn’t sure if that was a good thing or not though. Maybe it would make him less suspicious when he asked to withdraw some of these guards. But on the other hand, it was hard to say if his mind wouldn’t go somewhere else when he brought it up. Well, he could only give it a try.
Jing He brought the tea set over to the table and put one of the cups down in front of his father and the other on his side of the table before he poured the tea. “I hope it is to your taste.”
The Heavenly Emperor took the cup even though it was still hot, giving his son another bright smile. “I’m sure it will be. Nobody knows me better than my precious son.” He reached over and patted Jing He’s hand, obviously still in a good mood.
Jing He sat down and lowered his gaze, his thoughts churning. This … probably wasn’t the right time yet? Ah, he would need a good reason to bring it up. Doing it just like that didn’t seem quite right. Anyway, he would have to wait until the conversation continued.
The two of them sat in silence for a while until the Heavenly Emperor couldn’t take it any longer.
“Say, was there something specific that you wanted? Or was it just that you missed your father?” Naturally, he hoped that it was the latter.
Jing He hesitated for a moment, once again wondering if it would be a good time to bring up what was actually on his mind. In the end, he kept it to himself though. There was no way he could state it outright without drawing his father’s suspicion. “There was nothing special father. It is just that we haven’t spent much time together for the last few days. I am a little unaccustomed to that after spending so much time together in the weeks before that.”
Rong Su nodded, feeling that this was indeed right. They had spent so much more time before. They should keep that up. “You’re right. This was your father’s mistake. I should have come to see you on my own accord before this.”
Jing He hurriedly shook his head. “How could that be? If anything, then I should have come to see you.” He hesitated but finally couldn’t help but speak up again. This opportunity just fit too well. “It’s just that …” He sighed and then fell quiet again.
Rong Su couldn’t help but feel that it was strange. “Is something the matter?”
Jing He shook his head but there was a slight pause before he did so, making his father wonder even more.
“You know that you can tell me about anything.”
Jing He nodded. “Of course, father. I know that.”
“Then why aren’t you speaking up? Come on, confide in your father. I’m sure that whatever it is, I will be able to help you.”
Jing He glanced up at his face, clearly still struggling with something. In the end, he sighed though and did as his father had asked him to but he still apologized beforehand. “Father will probably find that I’m being ridiculous and do not know what is good for me. It is not that I do not understand your intentions. It’s just that … Father also knows that I like it to be quiet very much. Having a multitude of servants around, that isn’t something I enjoy. If I can, then I would rather take care of things on my own. So far, that has never been a problem either. I know you and mother often feel that I’m going a little too far with this but it is just the way I like to live. And I’m very thankful that you’ve always accepted that.”
Rong Su nodded slowly. “Of course. And I wouldn’t ask you to change that. So what makes you bring it up?”
Jing He lowered his head, his dark hair shrouding his face in shadows and making his expression unreadable. “While there aren’t any servants around, there are still the guards. So far, it has only ever been Huang Lan and Mu Kun and a few others that uncle trusts to take over for them at a set schedule.
“But … right now, things are different. I know why have you have done this and I am thankful that you want to protect me but I’m afraid I’m just not quite accustomed to it. That makes me feel so …” He made a pause as if searching for the right word. “I don’t even know how to call it. I guess I feel that it is me who did something wrong? That I have disappointed you. It makes me feel that I should change my behavior. But I don’t know what to do.
“Staying inside would probably be the right decision but I can’t bring myself to always do that either. I haven’t left my palace in the past few days since you have stationed them here but then, I haven’t seen you at all for that time. When I asked today to go over, one of the guards even held me back.
“Father, please let me be honest, I just can’t fathom your purpose. Is it that you do not want me to leave?” He looked up again, looking directly at his father.
The Heavenly Emperor was completely dumbstruck. His son … His precious son actually felt trapped in his own palace? This was why he hadn’t come to see him at all? He really didn’t know how to react to that. He never even would have thought that something like this could have happened. But apparently, that was the case. And it was his own fault for not taking care of this properly.
Rong Su tightened his lips, trying to think of something he could say to make his precious son feel better. In the end, he couldn’t think of something though. Obviously, his son should know that he loved him. In this case, he had to reassure him of this but after everything that had happened, it seemed that just words might not be enough. No, he needed to be more assertive!
Thinking for a bit, he leaped to his feet and clenched his hands into fists. “What daring guards! They actually behaved so badly that you felt imprisoned in your own palace. I can’t believe they would go so far! Don’t worry, my dear son, your father will go and set them straight!”
Jing He wanted to say something but his father had already run out of the door to holler at the guards, leaving the steaming teacup behind. It seemed … he would not be able to explain to his father at all.
Outside, Huang Lan raised his brows in surprise but then pretended that nothing was happening. He definitely wouldn’t help those guys out that had dared to disrespect their crown prince like this. In his opinion, the Heavenly Emperor might as well scream at them for a few hours. They definitely deserved it.
On the other hand, the guards that the Heavenly Emperor had sent over here weren’t reconciled at all. One of them, who happened to be the one that had told Jing He to get back inside so they could notify the Heavenly Emperor, couldn’t help but speak up.
“Tianjun, wasn’t it our task to guard the Son of Heaven? How are we supposed to do that if he goes without us to your palace? And naturally, Your Majesty should be notified of any visitors. I do not see how we did anything wrong.”
Rong Su stared that person, his expression turning even worse. This guy actually dared to talk back! Couldn’t he see that he was trying to appease his son?!
At that moment, Jing He stepped out of the palace behind him and walked over to his side, gently taking his arm. “Father, what he says does make sense. You shouldn’t scold them for this. They are only doing what you told them to do.”
The Heavenly Emperor went rigid when he heard that. No, no, no! They definitely weren’t doing what he told them to do! Just how was he supposed to show that to his son?!
He fretted for a while and then pointed at the nose of the guy who was still stubbornly refusing to see his mistake. “You! You take half of these people and just get back to where you came from. I’d rather have a few competent people here who can do a good job than to see you lot waste your time here and annoy my precious son. Anyway, if you can’t behave yourself, then why should my poor son have to suffer from your incompetency?!”
The guard furrowed his brows and seemed to want to say something else but one of the others hurriedly tugged at his sleeve, shaking his head. Under the furious gaze of the Heavenly Emperor, half of the guards vacated the premises.
Jing He almost wanted heave a sigh of relief but he made sure to keep his expression in check. Anyway, there were still quite a few of them around. It wasn’t as bad anymore as before but it couldn’t be denied that he wasn’t completely free yet.
“Father, you shouldn’t get that angry. It’s not good for your body. Why don’t you come back inside and have another cup of tea? The old one has probably gotten cold by now.”
Rong Su was pulled out of his anger by his son’s caring words and hurriedly ushered him back inside. “Yes, yes, yes! Let’s go back inside and just spend some time together. It’s bad enough that these idiots kept us from it for the past few days. You really should have said something sooner. There is no way your father would ever let you be disrespected this way.”
Jing He gave a short smile while he followed his father back to the table and lowered his head. “Of course, I know that, father.” Whether he actually meant any of these words, it was a question worth pondering.