Jing He didn’t think too much about his uncle’s decision to go to his place instead of the Palace of War and just led him inside. He wanted to ask him if he wanted anything to drink or eat, but Qiang Yan already waved.
“I already know what you want to say but let’s just sit down. I think there are a few things we have to talk about.”
Jing He nodded and the two of them sat down at the table. Before Qiang Yan had the chance to say anything, Jing He already took out the jade box and pushed it in front of Qiang Yan. “This is what I chose as a gift for Longjun. I think … it fits his aesthetic very well.” This was the same excuse he had given his father so he just continued with it. In any case, while he didn’t really want to lie, it was the only thing he could do right now. His true thoughts couldn’t be revealed in front of anyone.
Qiang Yan raised his brows but took a moment to open the box and look at the ring inside. Just like Rong Su, he also didn’t recognize what kind of object this was. It just seemed like a rather plain ring that had some practical use. The only thing that might be slightly strange about it was that it was something that could be worn on the body at all times.
He wondered if there was some kind of special meaning to that but he didn’t mention it. In any case, that wasn’t what he was here for right now. “I see. Well, it sure seems like a gift he would like. But after spending so much time together, I’m sure that you know much better than I do. Most likely, if you say that that is something that fits him, then it does. I don’t have any worries at all.” He closed the box again and put it away, giving Jing He a long look.
Jing He couldn’t help but start to worry. Had he given something away? Was that why his uncle looked at him like this?
Qiang Yan also realized that he was making his nephew nervous and retracted his gaze. He reached out and took his hand though. “Jing He.”
Jing He immediately lowered his gaze, worried about what might be coming next.
“I know you prefer keeping things to yourself and trying to solve any issues you have on your own. But you know, we’re family. So if there’s a problem that you don’t know how to tackle, you can always ask for help.”
Jing He glanced up, faintly surprised. “Uncle’s meaning is …?”
Qiang Yan hesitated for a moment but then just spoke straightforwardly. “Longjun, you … like him, don’t you?”
Jing He’s eyes slightly widened and he hurriedly shook his head. “No. No, how could that be?” But he immediately pulled back his hand, hiding it in his sleeve, and looked away.
He was so obviously lying, Qiang Yan really wasn’t sure how his nephew believed to be able to get away with this. “I’m not judging you for this. Who you like or not, at the end of the day, I think that is your decision. Or, well, calling it a decision seems kind of wrong. In any case, it is something that I feel I shouldn’t interfere in. Most likely, even your mother and father shouldn’t. Unless you want us to, of course.
“So what I’m saying is … if you’re worried because the dragon king hasn’t come by these last few days and if you are worrying if his words about why that was the case aren’t true, then I absolutely wouldn’t mind inquiring about that for you. Just to put your mind at ease.”
Jing He stared at the table, feeling torn. Oh, how he wanted to know! If he could just gain a piece of information on how the dragon king was doing and how things were proceeding, so he could find out just when he would be able to see him again and what exactly was going on, he would definitely be happy.
But he also knew that this was something that he couldn’t say out loud. After all, even though his uncle had said that he wouldn’t judge, how much truth was there really in that? He knew how close his mother and his uncle were. Since his mother wanted him to be with Longjun, then his uncle was likely of the same opinion. In any case, hadn’t Longjun also gone to him to deliver the robe and mask for the Jiyi Festival the other day?
Qiang Yang could see that his nephew had no idea how to react and could only sigh. “In any case, I will have to go to the dragon realm one of these days to make some inquiries about the upcoming anniversary anyway. If there was something that you wanted to know, it absolutely wouldn’t be coming to the dragon king’s attention that it was something you wanted to know specifically. Just in case that is what you’re worried about.”
Jing He shot a glance at his uncle before lowering his head again. “Uncle is really thinking too much. I’m not worrying about any of these things. I just … I will admit that I find it somewhat strange that he hasn’t really been coming over. It indeed doesn’t seem quite like him.”
Qiang Yan nodded and didn’t press the issue further. In any case, getting Jing He to admit to this much was already quite a good result. With how he was, asking for anything more was completely impossible.
He cleared his throat and got up and then paced toward the door to the garden with his hands held behind his back. “In any case, when I go over, I will have a look around and see what is going on. Even if you don’t want to know, I’m afraid my gossipy heart won’t be able to take it if I don’t share it with somebody. And since you know the dragon king quite well, you can help me analyze whatever I’m being told.”
Jing He gave a faint hum, not indicating how exactly he stood to all of that but at the very least, he hadn’t disagreed. Knowing him, that was pretty much tacit approval.
Qiang Yan turned back and smiled. “Now, I will do so tomorrow. So, today, just put your mind at ease. Don’t think too much. Go to sleep early and eat a bit before you do. You have gotten thinner recently.”
Jing He looked up in surprise and seeing his uncle’s worried look, he actually felt guilty. He also knew that he had lost some weight. It was just that he really couldn’t do anything about that. He was too worried to take a bite. Even now that he had his uncle’s promise, he wasn’t sure if his mind could really be put at ease before he didn’t have all the answers. But with Qiang Yan being so serious, he still nodded. “Of course. Uncle does not need to worry.”
Qiang Yan sighed, actually feeling quite a bit worried when he saw the same kind of demure behavior his nephew regularly showed, but he still just nodded. “Very well. Then, I won’t disturb you any longer. I’ll come back as soon as I can tomorrow to tell you the news.” He smiled and then left the palace through the door to the garden, before looking up at the sky.
Ah, this child, he was really troublesome. It was moments like these, where he figured that not having a child of his own was probably for the best. If his own child had also turned out like Jing He, then he really wouldn’t know what to do.
Thinking of that, he couldn’t help but sigh. There were also some joys in being able to have that kind of family where you cared for each other. Well, no matter what, there were his sister, brother-in-law, and his nephew. What more did he want?
Qiang Yan shook his head at himself and then left, making Jing He look out at the familiar sight of his own garden and the pavilion where he had sat with Qiu Ling a few times.
Looking at it, he felt a faint pain in his chest. The dragon king … He really didn’t know what to think in regard to him these days. Wanting to confess his own feelings … maybe that already came too late. Even if the dragon king found out, maybe he would not care anymore.
That was the thought that Jing He finally went to bed with. Another one that was keeping him awake at night, even though he finally fell into an exhausted sleep halfway through the night. But once again, it wasn’t restful and when he woke up in the early morning hours, he still didn’t feel any better at all. Instead, he really felt that if his uncle wasn’t bringing back good news this afternoon, he wouldn’t be able to hold on.