The next days went by in a flash. They got up in the mornings, got dressed and Zhu Hong did Zhen Zhu’s hair before they had breakfast and then went out together. They explored every place in the valley, using some time to play around, some time to look at things that would be important for Zhen Zhu to know in the future, and then Zhu Hong also went off for some time to take care of matters while Zhen Zhu went to spend time with the other phoenixes.
After six days had gone by since their wedding, Zhen Zhu already felt familiar with the valley. And then, it was finally the day when the two of them would return to the phoenixes’ forest.
At this moment, Zhen Zhu was crouching in front of the chest, looking at the robes that were inside. Not that much could be made in one week under normal circumstances and since the wedding had already been done and Zhen Zhu had something to wear for the time being, there was only one new robe for him to choose from. He looked at it but he wasn’t sure if it was the right one for today.
Zhu Hong had already finished getting dressed and went over, crouching down next to him while he tried not to look at his exposed skin. “You can’t decide?”
Zhen Zhu shook his head. “I remember that the first day I went to see the other phoenixes, they were really interested in what kind of robes you prepared for me. And they were all behaving like they would be able to see what kind of husband you are just from this. If I choose the wrong one, then won’t Grandelder Lan Jing and the other elders in the forest think that you aren’t good to me? But you definitely are! I know that you are. So I don’t want them to think badly of you.”
Zhu Hong couldn’t help but laugh when he saw his little partner’s tangled expression. He reached over and brushed his hair back over his shoulder, finally landing a kiss on his skin. “You don’t have to worry so much. Just think of yourself. Just pick the one that you like the most.”
“But what if it’s not good enough?”
Zhu Hong reached over and grabbed his chin, making him face around. “Zhen Zhu.” His gaze was gentle but also a little stern, making the little phoenix look at him while feeling uncertain. “You know, the most important will always be that I’m good to you and that you also feel that I’m good to you. What others think is just secondary.
“But in any case, I think it is normal for a couple to be nervous when they return to the forest for the first time. So nobody will find that strange. But if you wear something that you like rather than something that you think might reflect the best on me, then you will be more comfortable in your own skin. And I think that that will show. And don’t you think that the Grandelder and the others will feel that if I can make you feel that way, I will be an excellent husband?” He faintly raised his brows and Zhen Zhu couldn’t help but stare for a moment.
The first time he had seen Zhu Hong, he had already felt that his husband was very attractive. Even now, he just couldn’t help but stare. Finally, he turned back to the chest, pulling out the apricot-colored robe with a white pattern that he had worn the day after the wedding. He especially liked it to the point where he was afraid to wear it too often. Now, a week had gone by but he hadn’t dared to wear it even once after that first day. He just felt that since it was similar to the robe he had gotten married in, it should be something special.
Zhu Hong rubbed his head and motioned at the robe. “That one it is? Then better put it on. I’ll help you do your hair afterward.”
Zhen Zhu nodded and got up, putting on the robe with motions that were already much swifter than in the beginning. When he turned back around, Zhu Hong couldn’t help but look at him with a smile.
“You’re looking really pretty. So, does my pretty spouse have any kind of wishes for his hair today?” He motioned over to the dressing table and Zhen Zhu rushed over, sitting down immediately.
“No, I will leave it up to you.”
Just two days ago, Zhu Hong had finally tried helping him make his hair wavy like that of Meiguo Shiying. As a result, it had looked stupid. It had reminded Zhu Hong a bit of his lover’s fluffy chick form which he thought was adorable but Zhen Zhu hadn’t been that amused. Since then, he really felt that it was better to leave matters to Zhu Hong when it came to his hair. Clearly, his husband had the better taste. Or maybe it wasn’t the taste but just the fact that he could imagine things before he saw them. They had both been able to see that this wasn’t it after all.
Zhu Hong also couldn’t help but think of the day and just quietly smiled to himself while he got to work. “Any kind of look that you want to go for?”
Zhen Zhu watched him through the mirror, not sure what to say. The first few days, he had always intended to seem a bit more mature and sophisticated but he had come to realize that it didn’t matter to Zhu Hong. And outside of the house, the others also didn’t take him seriously no matter how he looked. To them, he was just a small chick that had just joined the valley, the one everyone had to show around, and help out because he couldn’t do it himself. So no matter what hairstyle he wore, it wouldn’t change a thing. “Just do what you would like.”
Zhu Hong nodded and then got to work. To get this answer … he wasn’t quite sure what to do with it. There were a few things he would really like to try but he wasn’t sure if Zhen Zhu would like them. In any case, he also didn’t want him to feel unhappy especially on a day like this so he should probably go with something a little more conservative.
He thought for a while and then went for a style that was a bit like what Zhen Zhu usually asked for but also a bit more playful at the same time. It could probably be considered to be the best of both worlds.
When Zhu Hong had finished, he motioned for Zhen Zhu to take a look. “So, how is it? Can this look pass my lover’s scrutiny?”
Zhen Zhu immediately smiled and turned from side to side, taking a closer look. “I would say … it is very good. You’ve done a good job.” He smiled, then got up, standing on tiptoes to give his husband a kiss. “Now then, can we go?” Now that he said it, he was suddenly nervous again. While Zhu Hong had been doing his hair, all those extraneous thoughts had left his mind. It was probably because he was already so used to him doing this. Now though, there was nothing else to focus on.
Zhu Hong nodded and pulled him into his arms. “Don’t worry. In any case, it’s not like they’ll force us to separate even if they think that we might not be suitable.”
Zhen Zhu pursed his lips. “I want them to think that we are suitable though.”
Zhu Hong leaned down and kissed him on the lips, his eyes twinkling. “Say that to Grandelder Lan Jing when we’re there then. I’m sure she’d appreciate the input. Come on now.” He grabbed his hand and pulled him to the door, waving at the others while they left for the edge of the valley.
Turning to Zhen Zhu, his gaze became a little complicated. After that second day, Zhen Zhu hadn’t actually tried flying again. His phoenix form had grown quite a bit over the last few days but he wasn’t too sure if he was at his full size yet. In fact, he felt that there was probably still at least half a meter in his wings’ length missing. Who knew if he would be able to fly?
Zhu Hong thought for a bit and motioned up at the sky. “Do you want to try flying yourself or … would you rather fly on your husband’s back?”
Zhen Zhu who had gotten into a tangled mood again when Zhu Hong mentioned flying, suddenly looked at him with sparkling eyes. “I can do so?” He didn’t remember any phoenixes flying on their partner’s backs but that did sound quite interesting. He definitely wanted to give it a try!
Zhu Hong laughed and nodded and then let go of his hand, taking a step back. “Wait a bit.” Saying so, he straightened up and then turned around and into his dragon form in a flash.
Zhen Zhu stared at him, unable to take off his eyes. He felt that his husband was generally very awe-inspiring but his other form couldn’t compare to this. Just like how his hair was of a vermilion color, the scales of his dragon form were as well. In the sunlight that was falling down, they looked as if they were blazing. He wondered if when he got close, would they burn his fingers? He reached out gingerly, almost afraid to touch.
Zhu Hong saw and wondered if his little phoenix was scared because the dragon form was this big. He gently lowered his head and then inched a little closer, making sure not to make any sudden movements so as to not scare him further.
Zhen Zhu finally touched his head and realized that while the scales were looking like this, they were actually rather cold to the touch. It was only the sunlight that warmed them slightly. Otherwise, he couldn’t even feel the temperature of Zhu Hong’s body because of how thick they were.
He remembered from his clan that the scales were rather sturdy and he couldn’t help but press against one of them, trying to see if it was really true. As a result, he noticed that not only didn’t they budge at all, the surface was also much less smooth than it looked and instead rather rough.
Zhu Hong gave an amused huff and then lay down on the ground, stretching out a claw so that Zhen Zhu could climb up. He also could’ve held him in his palm but he figured that Zhen Zhu might feel even more scared of that since his claws were rather sharp.
Zhen Zhu actually didn’t have any feelings like that and climbed onto his husband’s back without trouble. He just wasn’t quite sure how to hold onto him. After a moment’s consideration, he finally just hugged his neck.
Zhu Hong inwardly laughed but then slowly rose into the sky, soaring through the air.
He could fly quite fast but considering that — save for the time they had come to the wedding — Zhen Zhu hadn’t ever ventured out of the valley, he wanted to give him some more time to look outside. Also, who knew if the little one wouldn’t get scared if it got too fast? He didn’t want to risk that. Thus, they just slowly drifted with the wind, making the dragons’ valley still be visible behind them for a rather long time.
When the phoenixes’ forest finally appeared in front of them, half a day had already gone by. The phoenixes over there who were expecting them back today had gotten a little anxious.
Sometimes, there would be accidents on the way. Also, if a couple didn’t get along, that might also lead to trouble. So not seeing them up until now made them think that maybe there was indeed something wrong.
Some of the elders paced up and down in the main building, the way they twisted their hands or hair making obvious just how nervous they were. One of them couldn’t help but turn to Lan Jing who was sitting in front of the tree. “Grandelder, maybe we should send somebody to look for them? Something might have happened.”
Lan Jing glanced outside and seeing that there was still some light falling through the treetops she shook her head. “Don’t be too anxious. In any case, you know how young couples can be. Maybe it is not that they are late because something happened but because they were busy with each other.”
The elder fell silent for a moment but then sat down next to her, his expression still tangled. “Well, but what if not? In any case, it’s already past midday now. Shouldn’t we go up just to make sure?”
Lan Jing threw him a glance but still shook her head. “No need. Just give them some more time. If they still aren’t here in an hour, then you can still go up and check.”
The elder wanted to argue but one of the others patted his shoulder. “Enough already. In any case, the Grandelder’s right that we don’t know what is going on. There might be a logical explanation for this. Just have a bit more patience.”
The first Elder grumbled a bit but fell silent again and merely got up to resume his pacing after a couple of minutes. Sitting still was really asking too much in this kind of situation. Unless he saw that little phoenix himself, he just wouldn’t be able to shake the worry.
Just when he felt that he should probably go and ask again, a person finally rushed in from outside. “They’re here!”
Lan Jing got up and the elders followed her outside. It was just … the couple still hadn’t landed. Lan Jing raised her brows and looked at the phoenix that had reported and he pointed up with a wry smile.
“When I say they are here, I guess it would be better to say that we can see them if we fly up. They are incredibly slow.”
Lan Jing couldn’t help but laugh and then turned into her phoenix form, rushing up into the sky.
The other elders exchanged a glance and the two that had spoken before also changed, following her up. They really couldn’t take it any longer and finally wanted to see how that little one of their race was doing.
When they reached the sky, what they saw was the couple literally floating toward them. This … This dragon had clearly taken his partner sightseeing instead of flying here directly, hadn’t he?
The elders immediately wanted to scold him, but just then, Zhen Zhu finally noticed the people ahead.
He raised his head, his eyes widening and shimmering in the sunlight. While holding onto Zhu Hong’s neck with one hand, he raised the other and waved before calling out to them. “Grandelder Lan Jing! Elders!”
He sounded so happy that the elders immediately swallowed the words back down into their bellies. Well, never mind. Even though they had worried themselves to death about this chick, at least his husband had managed to make him happy. It could also be said that he was rather responsible in that regard.
The three of them waited until Zhu Hong and Zhen Zhu had finally managed to come over and then the group slowly descended.
Zhu Hong directly landed on the ground and then held out his claw, making it easier for Zhen Zhu to climb down. Only when that had happened did he change back into his other form, giving Lan Jing and the two elders a proper greeting.
Zhen Zhu glanced at him and then also greeted them again, his original nervousness from when they had still been in the dragons’ valley completely forgotten.
When Lan Jing carried him to dragons’ valley originally, he had looked out from in-between her claws but everything had gone so fast that he hadn’t really been able to see much. Now though, things had been different.
Zhu Hong had flown slowly for him so he had been able to look around in all directions, pointing out every single interesting thing that he saw on the way. He was only a bit disappointed that they hadn’t been able to stop along the way to take a closer look. That really would have been perfect.
He hoped that in the future, they would be able to travel around like that. He really liked it. Or maybe by then, he would’ve learned how to fly. Then he could accompany his husband and they could fly side-by-side. That would also be nice.
Not only Lan Jing and the two elders that had come to greet them but all the other phoenixes were also standing around them, taking a closer look. Zhen Zhu’s face was basically radiating happiness, making them take a second look at Zhu Hong. Just what kind of magic dragon was this that he was able to get such a result in a week?
Even though the phoenixes would bond with their dragons, it was still a bit difficult to reach this kind of state in just seven days. After all, even if you loved somebody, a relationship still needed to be formed slowly.
You needed to get to know each other and find out about their past and their visions for the future. And with each of these questions answered the couple would usually become more stable. But this process often took up to a full year, sometimes longer. Now, there was a couple that seemed to have been able to make that happen in just a week. It really was outstanding.
Lan Jing smiled with satisfaction. This was the kind of couple that she wanted to see. “It seems that the two of you have gotten along quite well these days. Well, come on in. I’m sure that there will be some things you want to talk about.”
Zhu Hong nodded and then wrapped an arm around Zhen Zhu’s waist, giving him a smile to show him that — just as he had told him — there really was no reason to be nervous. Everything was going exceedingly well.