There was a window right next to Jing He’s bed and he had left the door to the next room open, meaning that he had no trouble at all to keep track of the time. When the sun was slowly setting outside, he gently slipped out of the bed, making sure that Jing He was comfortable before he rushed over to the door and grabbed Huang Lan. “Go and ask the Heavenly Empress to come over.”
Huang Lan was startled but still nodded. He didn’t even ask anything and just rushed over to the Heavenly Empress’ palace. No matter what it was, right now, they would also feel better if the Heavenly Empress was there. There was no doubt that Longjun would take care of their crown prince but they would rather not take any chances.
Mu Kun wanted to say something but Qiu Ling had already turned back around and went inside again, sitting down next to Jing He’s bed. For the time being, he didn’t think that Jing He should be alone for even a minute. Going out to inform the guards was also only because he needed somebody to go and tell Bai Fen to come back. Otherwise, he definitely wouldn’t have left his side before there was somebody else there.
When Huang Lan arrived at the Heavenly Empress palace, he found not only her but also the God of War there.
The two of them looked up when they heard steps and then immediately jumped to their feet when they realized who it was. “Did something happen to Jing He?” The Heavenly Empress held onto her brother’s arm, staring at Huang Lan with fear.
The guard hurriedly shook his head. “Not as far as I’m aware of. Longjun told me to come and get you.”
Qiang Yan slightly furrowed his brows and then patted Bai Fen’s back, trying to calm her down. “Don’t worry about it. I’m sure it’s nothing major. In any case, didn’t the God of Medicine already have a look at him? In that case, it shouldn’t be that dire. Otherwise, Longjun definitely would have sent Mu Kun off as well. He didn’t do that, right?”
Huang Lan shook his head. “No, he just told me to get the Heavenly Empress. I didn’t dare delay so I didn’t ask any further questions.”
Qiang Yan nodded and thought for a bit while they already left the palace and finally, his expression settled again. “It’s probably because it’s late. He won’t want to stick around at night for fear of Jing He’s reputation. He does have enough common sense for that. He probably wants you to take over to make sure that Jing He won’t be alone in case something were to happen.”
Bai Fen heaved a sigh of relief when her brother said so. “Right. That explanation makes sense. I shouldn’t worry as much. This whole situation is probably just a misunderstanding.” She glanced at her brother, clearly meaning more than just the current situation but more the general situation between Jing He and Qiu Ling.
Qiang Yan nodded. When he had come back from the dragon realm this morning, he had wanted to go to Jing He immediately to tell him the good news. But then, what he had been met with were Huang Lan and Mu Kun being incredibly worried and the God of Medicine just leaving Jing He’s palace. Thus, he didn’t dare to go in and instead asked the God of Medicine for more information before he finally went to Bai Fen when she came back to her own palace.
They had talked about the matter at length and he felt like they had a pretty good guess just what had happened. The question was just how to navigate the situation from now on. Most likely, somebody should have a good talk with the dragon king.
When they finally arrived at the palace, Mu Kun was still standing in front, not looking too worried. Even though the two of them had already figured out what the reason might be, they still felt reassured when they saw this.
The guard greeted the two of them and Bai Fen and Qiang Yan went inside.
Seeing Qiu Ling sitting at Jing He’s bedside while Jing He himself slept peacefully, they weren’t quite sure what to think. This person … his presence really was a double-edged sword.
They couldn’t help but feel like getting to know him had made Jing He come out of his shell a little. It was something that they had wanted to see for a long time. But now, he was the very same person who had also caused something like this. Not because he had done anything wrong but because he had always over-thought things. And then Jing He had done exactly the same, causing this kind of result.
Or, no, it would probably be better to say that actually, the dragon king hadn’t had much of a hand in this. In fact, he had only pulled back a little after he noticed that Jing He wasn’t doing well, wanting to give him some space. That had been the right decision. Anybody else would’ve done the same. The problem was really that from beginning to end, Jing He had worried too much. And they really didn’t know what to do about that.
Qiu Ling looked up when he saw the two of them and then got up from where he was sitting, nodding at them. “I will leave for now and come back tomorrow morning. I gave him some of the tea that the God of Medicine sent over but I’m not quite sure if that will be enough. There’s more left in the pot over there.” His voice was so low that it was barely audible, clearly with the intention that Jing He was not supposed to wake up.
Bai Fen nodded and then took his place, keeping her gaze trained on her son’s face.
Meanwhile, Qiang Yan also glanced at Jing He, feeling a hint of fear arise in his heart when he saw his pale complexion and then followed Qiu Ling outside.
Qiu Ling glanced at him and then walked to the other side of the garden before he stopped and looked up at the darkening sky. “I assume the God of War has something to tell me.” His voice was still low even though not quite as low as it had been inside the palace. At this distance, it was unlikely they would be able to wake Jing He up but he still wanted to make sure just in case.
Qiang Yan followed him and then stopped next to him, looking up as well. “This whole situation … it isn’t easy. For nobody involved. I have to thank Longjun for helping out today. Both for originally informing my sister and the God of Medicine but also for staying with him this whole time. I’m sure that this will have helped Jing He a lot. He does feel quite close to you. I’m sure of that.”
Bai Fen might have some inhibitions to tell the dragon king this directly but Qiang Yan was different. In his mind, as long as it would help Jing He, he didn’t mind not taking decorum into consideration as much. Some things just needed to be said more openly if they were supposed to work out.
Qiu Ling looked at him, his expression a little strange. The Heavenly Empress had already hinted as much but he noticed as well that the God of War was apparently willing to say a few more words about it.
Qiang Yan turned to him and decided that he might as well tell him everything. “The last few days or … actually weeks, Jing He was worried because you weren’t coming around.
“You see, he isn’t in an easy situation. Being the crown prince of the Nine Heavens comes with quite a few expectations. And I’m afraid that very often, that weighs on him. He takes his position very seriously and whatever he does in life, he will always weigh his personal feelings against what he thinks might be necessary in his position. And I’m afraid that this matter with Longjun is … well, it is a situation where both sides might not be easy to reconcile.”
Qiu Ling’s brows slightly knitted together, not because of what Qiang Yan said but because he actually said it out loud. He wouldn’t have expected that. “It’s been some years since I have gotten to know him. I think that I have a rather good grasp on how he navigates the situation. So what the God of War says doesn’t surprise me much.” Other than the fact that he had just alluded to Jing He having feelings for him.
Well, to be honest, he felt like there was some truth to that. In the beginning, he might’ve deluded himself into thinking that it would be that way but by now, he felt that Jing He was at least partly reciprocating his feelings. He didn’t think he was wrong about that.
Qiang Yan smiled faintly and looked back to the palace. “Longjun is a good man. I do believe that. It is just that you are of another race and you also happen to be that race’s king so there will inevitably be some difficulties. It certainly doesn’t help that Jing He’s father … has some reservations regarding you.”
Qiu Ling gave a hum. He really wasn’t sure what else to say so he stayed quiet.
“I went to the dragon realm today to find out why Longjun didn’t come by recently.”
At this, Qiu Ling raised a brow. He really hadn’t expected that. “Did the God of War find something surprising?”
Qiang Yan furrowed his brows and rubbed his chin, not quite sure how to say what was going through his mind. “It is less surprising than you might think. I do think that you care quite a big be a deal about my nephew. If I had any doubts before, I wouldn’t have had them anymore after the festival. The two of you seemed really close and I could see that you put a lot of effort into that. Clearly, Jing He is very important to you.”
Qiu Ling thought for a moment and then cleared his throat. “I do seriously intend to marry him.”
Qiang Yan gave a wry smile. “You know, this is precisely what is the problem right now. You are steadfast in this but my nephew isn’t. Jing He is torn between what to do. If it was just him, I think there is a good chance he would’ve said yes by now. But in his situation, he can’t do that. And he should be quite clear on the fact that his continuous rejection might put a strain on your relationship. He fears that.”
“I thought as much. Maybe not directly that but I had a bit of a hunch. I wanted to … give him space. Now, look at how it turned out. Sometimes I wonder if this is really a good idea … but I can’t change my feelings. And after four years of this, I’m not sure if I am willing to pull back.”
Not to mention that he couldn’t pull back anyway. As a dragon, that wasn’t a choice. Since he had already fallen in love, he could only continue to pursue him if he didn’t want to stay alone forever or end up in a loveless marriage. But he wasn’t about to put the strain of that knowledge on the God of War. It was bad enough that they needed to worry about Jing He’s outcome. Everything else should better be kept to himself.
He sighed and gave the God of War a faint smile. “You don’t need to worry. Since I am aware now, I will be more careful in the future. For the next few weeks, I will take care of him.
“Just … in the future, if there is something, just tell me immediately. Don’t wait. I don’t care for decency. Not just because the dragons don’t do as much as the gods in general but also because I personally couldn’t care less. I love him, I want to spend my life with him, so whatever concerns him, I’ll make it my concern as well. It might not be the right thing to do but I will do it nonetheless.”
Qiang Yan reached over and patted his shoulder, giving him a nod of approval. “You should do that. Just be clear with him. Trying to hide your feelings for him isn’t going to work. It would just make him worry even more.
“One day, he will get over his inhibitions. The concerns he has now, they won’t matter as much. But he is still young, he just recently came of age a few years ago, that is something you do need to keep in mind. He still needs time.”
Qiu Ling nodded. “I know. And I’m willing to give him that. No matter how much he needs, I’m willing to wait. Now though, I should really leave. I will be back tomorrow morning.”
Qiang Yan nodded and then watched him leave before he sighed and returned to Jing He’s palace himself. He knew that every word the dragon king had said was the truth but he still couldn’t help but worry for the future. Sometimes, things just weren’t that easy. And no matter what they intended to do, it was hard to say what the future might bring.