After Qiu Ling left that day, he went to prepare everything he felt he might need for the next one. The last time, he had prepared well, but after spending more time with Jing He, he wanted to do so even more. Nothing could be left to chance.
While the dragon king was busy, Jing He’s thoughts couldn’t help but return to the conversation they had had in the morning. He picked up the list Qiu Ling had made, reading over each of the entries with a complicated expression.
Qiu Ling had probably spent hours coming up with all of this. That amount of effort … didn’t it indicate just how important this was to him? And yet, here he was, thinking that he couldn’t accept doing any of this.
Qiu Ling was being incredibly accommodating toward him. After giving him the list, he had insisted that these were mere suggestions. He had allowed him to pick a few so they could go and do just those even though he had clearly hoped that they would take this whole tour together. At that time, he had already been taking his feelings into consideration. And then, when he saw that he didn’t seem to be as enthusiastic about this as he had hoped, he backtracked even further, saying that just visiting one of these places would be enough for him and he would already be happy if they could do that.
Once again making such concessions, how could that be acceptable? Could he still say no in such a case? Even though Qiu Ling had said that he would understand and that it would be enough to just have that picnic tomorrow, he didn’t think it was right.
He should pick at least one spot from the list and visit with him. It seemed like the right thing to do. Not just because he really wanted to have some time alone with him in a romantic spot but also because surely, he couldn’t always let the dragon king’s good intentions go to waste. Yes, surely, that kind of explanation should be acceptable to anyone who cared to listen.
He hesitated and then put the list into his spatial ring, stepping out of his palace and looking at the guards outside. Usually, it was Mu Kun and Huang Lan who stood there but these two couldn’t always be there either and would need the occasional rest, so today, their usual substitutes stood guard.
Jing He inclined his head, giving the men the same smile that he would give his usual guards. “Might I trouble you to go to the Heavenly Empress’ palace and ask whether she would have time to receive me?”
The guard on the left inclined his head. “Of course, Your Highness. I will return in just a moment.” With that, he immediately left.
Jing He nodded toward the other man and then turned around, going back inside. These two were a bit more serious than Huang Lan and Mu Kun, making him feel like he couldn’t be as open with them. Their gazes when Qiu Ling was over also weren’t as accepting, so he had some reservations.
But then, he couldn’t be left completely without guards. Even though he’d like to see that, it just wasn’t right. No matter his own feelings, he was still the crown prince of the Nine Heavens. Having guards at the door to his palace was just appropriate. He would never ignore such rules.
The guard didn’t need long. After just a couple of minutes, he already returned, announcing from outside that the Heavenly Empress was indeed available.
Jing He stepped back outside and thanked him before making his way over, motioning for the two of them that it was alright to stay back. Anyway, he really didn’t need them to follow him to his mother’s palace. The way there wasn’t far and there would be enough guards at her palace.
When he arrived, he greeted the guards and had one of them announce him before he stepped in, going to greet his mother.
“Mother. I hope you have been well.”
Bai Fen looked at her son, giving him a faint smile and waving. “We’ve seen each other just yesterday. Although I guess your thoughts were somewhere else at that time. Well, it’s my own fault to drag your uncle over while the dragon king was visiting you. Of course, you wouldn’t have time for us.”
Jing He’s cheeks flushed and he didn’t know how to explain himself. Yesterday, he indeed hadn’t been very hospitable. “I’m very sorry, mother. It was my oversight.”
Bai Fen looked at him, shaking her head. “You, ah! You’re being too serious. I was just teasing you. Anyway, I’m glad that the two of you are getting along so well. And it wasn’t like I was bored. Your uncle was with me so we had a good opportunity to chat.”
“Still, I should’ve accompanied you as well.”
“And sit around at a table with your mother, your uncle, and your suitor? I’m afraid that would’ve been really awkward for all four of us.” Although, to be honest, she didn’t think that the dragon king would be too bothered about that. In fact, he might be happily giving out compliments to all three of them in the hope of flattering them enough to finally agree to his continued marriage proposals. He just was the type of guy to do something like that.
Once she mentioned this though, Jing He’s expression blanked. Yes, trying to imagine that … he would’ve been mortified. It really couldn’t have been done.
Bai Fen chuckled when she saw his expression and just patted his shoulder. “You don’t worry! As I said, I wasn’t bored. I had a lot of fun with your uncle. And, well, it seemed like you had with Longjun as well. So all is well. Don’t worry about it.
“Anyway, what brings you over here? Is it just spending some time with your mother to make up for yesterday or was there something specific you wanted?” She grabbed his arm while she said so, leading him further into the palace, not wanting to stand around the whole time.
When she brought this question up, Jing He actually felt guilty. Yes, he probably should’ve come to just visit her and have a talk. He didn’t do that as often anymore since Qiu Ling was over almost every day. He really wasn’t a filial child.
Bai Fen sighed when she saw his expression. She should probably stop it with the jokes. With this kind of serious child, they would never land.
She let go of his arm and then went to sit down at the table, pouring both of them a cup of tea. “Well, let’s assume it’s the latter. Why don’t you tell your mother what this is about? I’d be very much interested to hear. It seems like some type of gossip might be involved.” And with ‘gossip’, she definitely meant ‘the dragon king did something outrageous again’. This much didn’t even need to be mentioned anymore when it was regarding Jing He’s life.
Jing He didn’t sit down to drink the tea and instead started to pace up and down in the room, trying to sort his thoughts. He didn’t know how to bring this up. It just was … well, he wasn’t sure what she would think.
Bai Fen lifted the cup, and couldn’t help but give Jing He a rather worried look. This time … just how bad was what the dragon king had done? Something told her that there was a bit more to this than she had imagined.