The absence of the guards was naturally the Heavenly Empress’ doing. The day of the festival, her brother had successfully distracted the Heavenly Emperor for several hours but, finally, Rong Su had just been annoyed and demanded to go back. No matter how much his brother-in-law argued, he still marched to his wife’s palace. As a result, he was chewed out severely.
Bai Fen had crossed her arms in front of her chest, staring her husband down when he dared to complain that Jing He wasn’t in her palace anymore. “You! You still dare to complain? Who was it that stationed all those guards outside his palace, making him come over here crying because he couldn’t take it any longer? You know he dislikes having so many people around but you still went ahead and placed them there just because you got it into your head that you somehow had to get rid of the dragon king.”
“But I need to —”
Bai Fen’s brows drew together, making the Heavenly Emperor shut up. He really wanted to get rid of the dragon king. But that also wasn’t worth making his wife angry over. Just why was everything so complicated? If it was another person, he could just have the guards throw him out but he couldn’t do that with this guy. What else was he supposed to do if not stationing a group of guards all around Jing He’s palace? If he didn’t, how would he protect his precious son from that old guy?
Bai Fen’s brows drew even further together. “You’re still thinking about it?”
Rong Su blinked his eyes at his wife, trying to look harmless. “No. Absolutely not. Why would I still be thinking about it?”
“Good! Then why are you still standing here looking at me instead of telling the guards to leave his palace?”
Rong Su was taken aback. “But —”
“Didn’t you say you weren’t thinking about it any longer? So why are you hesitating now?”
“I …” The Heavenly Emperor looked at the ground and pursed his lips. “I just want him to be safe.”
“Oh. You want him to be safe.” Bai Fen nodded like an understanding wife. Then, she unleashed her fury on her husband. “Are you implying that I’m stupid?! How does our son need a battalion of guards around his palace to stay safe? He’s been living there for most of his life and he has never needed those guards! It’s always only been Huang Lan and Mu Kun so how come, you suddenly need those other people there to make sure he’s safe? You’re obviously just doing this because you’re a selfish prick!”
The Heavenly Emperor pulled up his shoulders and retracted his head. “But I just —”
“You tell them to leave already! Your son is uncomfortable with them. What more do you need to know before you decide?”
This time, the Heavenly Emperor didn’t try to talk back. Naturally, he didn’t want his precious son to be uncomfortable. How could he? Even though he definitely wanted to keep that damned dandy away from him, Jing He’s comfort was still much more important.
Thus, he finally did as his wife had asked him and sent somebody to tell the guards to leave. Bai Fen was satisfied but Rong Su was still worried.
“What should we do about the dragon king though?”
The Heavenly Empress sighed. Just why was her husband still going on about that? “What’s so bad about the dragon king? He is the leader of our allies.”
“But he’s harassing Jing He!”
Bai Fen glanced at her husband’s indignant expression and couldn’t help but wonder if he really understood that son of theirs at all. Obviously, Jing He’s heart was slowly thawing. He might not even have realized it himself yet but he wasn’t completely immune to the dragon king’s charm any longer. With some more time, he would likely come to accept that man completely.
It was a good thing, actually. Jing He needed this. He couldn’t try to stay indifferent to others forever and the dragon king was outgoing enough to maybe make him open up to others later on as well.
Unfortunately, her husband really couldn’t see that. He still thought of Jing He as a child and she could somewhat understand that. It had only been a few years since he came of age so even though he was officially an adult, he was barely so. And with the way Jing He had grown up, it was no wonder that his father was still stuck in the mindset of having to protect him. And the dragon king was a menace in his eyes. Naturally, he wanted to keep him away. But he failed to realize that he was just making things more troublesome for his son.
Bai Fen looked up at the sky, her gaze thoughtful. She believed that Longjun might be able to free her son from this life where he just kept to himself and had to suffer in silence. He just needed to be given an opportunity. At the moment, she couldn’t convince her husband yet but she could at least stall for some time. If Jing He had fallen for Longjun, things might be easier. “Well, let’s see how it goes. If he really can’t take it anymore, we can still try to think of something. Let’s not be rash.”
The Heavenly Emperor wasn’t completely happy with that but he also didn’t know what to do. “Alright. Then I’ll go see him —”
Bai Fen grabbed her husband’s shoulder and pulled him back around when he wanted to leave. “Your son just left because he is tired. Let him have a good rest. You can go and see him tomorrow afternoon.”
The Heavenly Emperor deflated at that but he also couldn’t refute so he still stayed at his wife’s palace instead, silently pouting to himself.
Because of this, Jing He hadn’t seen his father until the end of the Jiyi festival, and even now that he went out to see Qiu Ling, his father couldn’t be seen anywhere, giving the two of them some time they could spend alone.
Jing He walked over to the small pavilion, his steps slow and quiet. “Longjun.” He gave a faint smile. “I’m sorry for not being able to entertain you sooner.”
Qiu Ling looked at him, his expression wistful. Now, he was finally able to see his beloved. It would only be better if they could sit a little closer together. Come to think of it … Qiu Ling slightly leaned forward, giving a smile of his own. “Don’t worry, I don’t mind it at all. A beauty should always be given as much time as they need to prepare.”
Jing He’s cheeks slightly flushed at the blatant compliment and he lowered his head. “Longjun … is praising me too much.” He really didn’t know what else to say. His heart thumped heavily, making him wonder how he was supposed to get through the time with this man. Obviously, after the words he had said yesterday, it was difficult to behave normally around him.
Qiu Ling just continued to smile, his gaze brushing over Jing He’s body. Seeing the green robe, he couldn’t get help but give a hum. Jing He really looked good in this. Although he did have to say that it couldn’t compare with yesterday’s appearance. Especially with his hair once again hanging more closely to his face, framing it in a way that made it more difficult to look at his eyes. And speaking of which … “Are we back to using each other’s titles?”
Jing He tensed, not sure how to answer that question. Yesterday, they had indeed called each other just by their names. But at that time, there had been the festival that could be used as an excuse to do so. Right now, things were different though. They were back in their daily lives where they needed to pay attention to what was customary. How could they be so willful? It really wasn’t a good idea.
Qiu Ling smiled turned wry and he nodded slowly. “Well, I guess it’s alright. I can wait a while longer for you to finally use my name. Until then, I guess just being called Longjun also isn’t that bad.”
Jing He gave a faint hum, not daring to say anything else. He felt that whatever words he used, they would all be wrong.
Qiu Ling could see that he was being self-conscious so he finally forced himself to put on a better expression and then nodded to the flowers outside. “I guess you’ll have to do quite a bit of work today after not being able to do so yesterday and in the days before because of those guards.”
Jing He looked over, happy at having something that could be used as a distraction, and nodded. “I guess it would be a good idea. Thank you for reminding me.”
Qiu Ling gave a hum and then looked at him, waiting for what Jing He intended to do. Unfortunately, his beloved seemed a little unsure himself and just sat there, looking a little lost.
“Don’t you want to take care of that right now?”
Jing He’s gaze roamed about, brushing past everything but the dragon king’s figure as if he didn’t dare to look at him at all. “That would be quite impolite, wouldn’t it?”
Qiu Ling got up though and moved over to the other side of the table, reaching out his hand just as he had yesterday. “Even if it was, I wouldn’t mind. Since it’s something you enjoy doing, I don’t mind joining you in that. Just take care of it and I will trail along. We can still have a conversation while doing so, can’t we?”
Jing He didn’t know what else to say so he only nodded weakly and then got up, moving to get the jar he normally used to water his plants. His thoughts were elsewhere though when he used his magic to fill it with water and then went back to the flower beds. And even then, his thoughts still weren’t with the actual task but with the man that was quietly following in his wake, making his nerves stretched taut.