She really didn’t believe that this was just a coincidence. Even though Qiang Yan did like her husband, it wasn’t to the point of making this kind of suggestion just for him to be able to spend more time alone with Jing He.
Qiang Yan waited a moment longer to make completely sure that his brother-in-law and nephew were out of earshot and then turned to Bai Fen. “Something is wrong with Jing He.”
Bai Fen slightly furrowed her brows, not quite sure what he meant. Yes, her son had been a bit silent but it wasn’t like that was unusual.
“He’s consistently been losing weight for the past few weeks. Considering how much he pays attention to his appearance, that is strange. And I’m afraid it’s not a good sign.”
Bai Fen thought back to how her son had looked just now, and slowly realized that maybe her brother was right. Jing He had always been slender so it wasn’t actually that noticeable at first glance, especially because with the way he dressed, most of his body was concealed quite well, but when she recalled it in detail, then there really was a difference to before. “You have sharp eyes, brother. It seems that you’re right.”
Qiang Yan glanced to the place where Jing He had sat and then at the plate of snacks, and his gaze was full of worry. “He didn’t touch the snacks that your husband just offered him and neither did he at your palace the other day.”
Bai Fen’s expression also became complicated. “Actually, when I recall it now, I feel like he also looks a bit tired. What do you think is going on? I thought Rong Su was making too much trouble the other day when he got the God of Medicine involved but maybe there’s more to this.”
Qiang Yan slightly narrowed his eyes, thinking about what Jing He had said before. “I don’t think that Longjun is a person that would really care about the anniversary of his coronation. For him to suddenly not appear here because of that is strange. I’m sure that Jing He can also see that.”
Bai Fen’s expression fell and she couldn’t help but gulp. She was pretty sure that Jing He had already developed feelings for the dragon king so if he was rejected … that would naturally hit him hard. “Do you think he finally lost interest?”
Qiang Yan raised his brows and shook his head, the same worry evident in his gaze. “I can’t say. I mean it’s not like I’ve interacted much with him. With how fervently he pursued him before, I wouldn’t think so but it is strange indeed. We should probably use the anniversary of the coronation to sound him out. It’s just that it won’t help with Jing He’s current situation. He needs help before this gets any worse.”
“Then what to do? Should we ask Longjun?”
Qiang Yan shook his head. “I guess it would be tempting to do that but I don’t think we should rely on him. In any case, we also need to keep in mind what would happen if something went wrong between the two of them. Maybe this time, it really is just a misunderstanding that can still be dealt with by just talking to him. But what if Longjun really loses interest someday? With how things have been going between them, it might be years before Jing He actually accepts his proposal. After all, you also know how he is. Who can guarantee that Longjun will stick around for that long? So, I think it would be safer to start working from Jing He’s side. So that if something like that were to happen, he wouldn’t just give up on himself.”
Bai Fen nodded, her mood complicated. In any case, it was easy to say that they would start working from Jing He himself but much harder to actually do so. If it was that easy to talk to this child and make him open up about his feelings and what his true thoughts were, then this whole fiasco with the dragon king never would’ve needed to happen. But they were already in this situation precisely because Jing He never did that. Regardless of what she said or how much she talked, she didn’t think that anything would change about that. Bai Fen rubbed her forehead, sighing to herself. “I’ll try but I really can’t promise anything. Well, for now, we should probably hope that it’s nothing serious.”
Qiang Yan nodded but he also couldn’t help but worry. In any case, he really wasn’t sure if the situation was that simple. Longjun was definitely not a man that would care about preparing some kind of festival. He was pretty sure that when it came to such matters, it was always his advisers that dealt with it. So why was this year different? Was it really just that Longjun had been using this as an excuse? Or was this the real reason? Maybe, if it was a special occasion, then things wouldn’t be so weird. Maybe that was it: maybe this was a special anniversary that had a special kind of meaning. Who knew for sure which one it was? But he should better find that out. It was probably the only thing that he could help with.
While the two of them were worried about him, Jing He had his own worries. He had followed his father over to the treasury and was currently trying to decide what would be a good gift for the dragon king. He had a hard time though. While there were a lot of things in the treasury, the recipient was both of high status, as well as quite the particular person. If it was his father, he probably would’ve had an easier time picking something out.
Going through the Jade boxes that held the items in the treasury, Jing He’s gaze was complicated. The dragon king might actually appreciate something practical more. For example, since he was a renowned warrior in the dragon race, maybe a weapon would be appropriate. He had also heard that he had been crowned king after claiming a decisive victory in the war against the demons back then. So a weapon could also be interpreted as a nod towards his great achievements as the king.
It wouldn’t be bad but he really didn’t know much about weapons. And he didn’t want to give anything that he couldn’t be sure would be appropriate. What if he chose one that was outwardly impressive but not really useful as a weapon? At this moment, he really wished that they had taken his uncle along. He would’ve been able to judge this. Well, since they hadn’t, he could only shelve that thought for later. Since there was still a bit of time until the coronation’s anniversary, they would also be able to send the gift up until the day it had to be given.
After a while, Jing He happened upon an elongated box with a set of carvings on top that differed from the ones that were on the other boxes. This had clearly been given as a gift. Still, he took a glance at it and couldn’t help but raise his brows. “A phoenix feather?” This was something that was quite rare.
The Heavenly Emperor harrumphed, not at all happy that his son was impressed with that. “Well, we can surely give that to him. It’d certainly be a slap in the face if he got back his own gift.”
Jing He immediately put down the box but couldn’t help but turn to his father. “This was actually given by Longjun?” He certainly hadn’t expected that. What a generous gift!
His father wasn’t too happy when he heard that. “Yes, wasn’t that in compensation for how he treated you at the beginning? He actually had those two advisers of his come over and deliver it because I had forbidden him from stepping foot in our realm. I really wonder what gave him the guts!”
Jing He didn’t know how to respond. He still remembered that time in the beginning. Thinking back now, it felt like a different lifetime. The fear he had felt, the trepidation, the worry, it was quite laughable. Yes, he still worried, but it was a completely different kind of worry now. He had definitely never again feared for his safety or his life in the dragon king’s arms. Instead, by now, he felt a sense of security from him. As if — as long as he was at his side — nothing could ever happen to him.
Without noticing it himself, there was a faint smile on Jing He’s lips when he thought of that. He continued to check the boxes one by one, his gaze finally lighting up when he opened a smaller one that seemed nondescript at first glance but the meaning behind the object inside was truly beautiful. The perfect gift for a man he secretly admired.