Qiu Ling heavily leaned against the door. He stared ahead, unable to really wrap his head around what had just happened. On the other hand, An Bai kept quiet, trying to look away. He didn’t know how to deal with this situation either.
Finally, Qiu Ling looked up at him, his expression still as unbelieving as before. “You know.”
An Bai’s throat seemed to constrict. No matter how he tried, he couldn’t say a single word at this moment. Thus, in the end, he merely nodded.
“Since … since when?” Qiu Ling’s voice cracked halfway through the question. He had expected a lot when he came here. He had even half-expected that An Bai might understand what the truth of the matter was when he originally asked him for these books and that maybe this grand dream of somehow finding explanations and being able to live a normal life would all go up in smoke.
He hadn’t dared to dwell on the thought. After all, he might not have a problem with it if he lost his throne by itself but it would also mean that he lost Jing He. This was the thing he feared most. But now, it actually turned out that not only did An Bai know exactly what he had meant, but he had even known the real truth before. How could he just accept that?
An Bai had a hard time to explain himself. He kept quiet for a moment but still did not dare to look Qiu Ling in the eye and finally just shook his head. “Actually, I didn’t know for sure. It was just a conjecture.”
Qiu Ling wasn’t too interested in the difference between the two. “Since when?”
“A few years … A few years after you met His Highness. He asked some questions and remarked on some things that made me a little doubtful.”
The last bit of color drained from Qiu Ling’s face. “Then Jing He —”
An Bai shook his head and finally looked up at Qiu Ling. “No. You don’t have to worry, Your Majesty. His Highness doesn’t assume the same. At the very least, not that I know of. I helped you to explain back then so he shouldn’t. Of course, I can’t say for sure but it is very unlikely. Your Majesty doesn’t need to worry.”
Qiu Ling closed his eyes and slowly exhaled. Well, that was at least something. He had really feared that maybe the secret had gotten out somehow. Although … thinking about it, that didn’t make any sense. If Jing He had really found out, he couldn’t have hidden that knowledge. After all, they had spent time together until the day that Jing He went for his trial.
If Jing He had really figured it out before, there only would have been two possible paths forward: Either he had accepted the fact that the man he had fallen in love with was part demon which would mean that Qiu Ling didn’t need to worry about it anyway or he wouldn’t have been able to accept it but then he should have tried to distance himself. Since that hadn’t happened, it was likely that Jing He was still ignorant about this fact. Come to think of it, maybe it would’ve been good if he had really found out. Then he wouldn’t need to try and come up with a way to tell him.
After a moment, Qiu Ling opened his eyes again and looked at An Bai. “Does anybody else know?”
An Bai nodded. “Xiang Yong does.”
“Oh.” Qiu Ling raised his brows and rubbed his forehead. “It seems I wasn’t as careful as I thought I was. How did he figure it out?”
An Bai gave a wry smile at that. “I’m afraid that would have been my fault. That day, I really didn’t know what to do. So I went to talk with Xiang Yong. Don’t worry. We were careful. I made sure that we talked somewhere where nobody would be able to hear. So other than the two of us, nobody knows.”
Qiu Ling lowered his hand and stared at An Bai, trying to figure out his mind. “Why didn’t you say something?” He had chased Jing He for a decade. If An Bai had figured it out after a few years, it should’ve at least been a few years since then. Add to that the years since Jing He had gone on his trial … He had known for so long. Why had he never said anything?
An Bai’s expression eased a little. “If Your Majesty would have wanted me to know, you would’ve told me. Figuring it out by myself … Ah, what else was I supposed to do?”
“And you don’t have anything else to say to that?” The king he had served for several millennia turned out to not be a full-blooded dragon. Could he really just smile that away?
An Bai lowered his head and fell silent. His expression was complicated but finally, he just sighed. Looking up again, there was not the slightest trace of distrust in his eyes. Completely not what Qiu Ling had expected. “I can imagine that this is hard to imagine for Your Majesty. You have probably worried about this quite a lot over the years. To be honest, maybe it would have been better if I told you after I found out so you would’ve known that there was somebody you could confide in.
“Back then, the first thought I had wasn’t that there was a problem with your parentage. The first thought I had was that if people found out and this would make you resign from your position, the dragon race would be in a difficult position. I guess over the years, I might not have shown it very much but I do believe that Your Majesty is a cable king. The best king we could probably have right now. So no matter who your mother was, it won’t change anything for me. No matter what happens, I will stand at your side. You can always count on that.”