Qiu Ling kept quiet for a long moment before sitting down next to Jing He and reaching out. He gently cupped his cheek, making him look up. “You know, you can always tell me if there is something bothering you.”
Jing He looked at him, his gaze soft. Oh, how he wanted to share! It was just … “You’d think it was idiotic.” And he didn’t want him to think any less of him.
Qiu Ling gave a hum and shook his head. “I doubt there is anything you could say that would ever make me think that.” His lips curled up in a smile and he leaned in. “When it comes to the people we love, we only ever see the good in them. Even if you managed to say something stupid, I would still only think that you are adorable and be happy that you were acting your age for once.”
Jing He’s lips parted but he still didn’t know what to say. He could be … adorable? That was a word he had never associated with himself. It also wasn’t what he aspired to be in the dragon king’s eyes but then, maybe he should?
He had figured his young age might be a detriment but from those words just now, it seemed that maybe it wasn’t. Could it be … Qiu Ling considered his young age attractive in the same way he thought of him being an older and more mature man as irresistible?
Jing He had no idea what to do with this sudden notion. He had never looked at it from this angle. Surely, in these six years, age had come up once or twice, and thinking back now, Qiu Ling might have mentioned that he didn’t mind but he had never thought that it might have a positive impact. He had probably thought of his young age so badly that he couldn’t believe the dragon king was speaking the truth when he alluded to it being a good thing.
Qiu Ling wasn’t sure what was going through his beloved’s mind but his expression sure was interesting. He watched on for a moment and then changed to grabbing his chin instead, tilting his head up further. “I believe you wanted to tell me about the origin of your fear of nature.”
There was still a slight smile in his voice and Jing He couldn’t help but feel drawn in. Even though he had doubted whether he should say anything, right now, it seemed ridiculous not to do it. Where would be the problem? Since Qiu Ling wanted it, he would do it. That was how it should be.
“When I was young, there was a storm in the Nine Heavens. It was … unlike anything I had ever seen before or witnessed since.” He shuddered just thinking back to it, his fingers tightly curling around the fabric of his robe. “The palace collapsed around me. I … I did not get injured but I was scared. I hid away, crying by myself, hoping that somebody would come and find me.”
Qiu Ling stared at him, feeling a sense of dread well up inside himself as well. His beloved could have very well died that day. Just that idea made it hard to breathe.
Jing He exhaled faintly, turning to look away. He felt too self-conscious under Qiu Ling’s gaze. “My parents found me in time to prevent worse from happening but I had been out there for hours and I fell sick. For several days, my life was hanging by a thread. Drifting in and out of consciousness …” He shook his head, unable to speak any further. “I have been more cautious since then. I know it is idiotic. I am … not a child anymore.”
Qiu Ling grabbed his hand, squeezing it tightly. “It’s not idiotic. Even though you have since come of age and you have the magic to deal with such matters now, that doesn’t mean that it couldn’t be dangerous. Also, the matters that happen when we are young have a way to influence us like nothing else. It is no wonder you are afraid.”
Jing He nodded, even though he knew very well that this wasn’t all. He couldn’t bring himself to say it though. I am cursed. How could he ever utter such words in front of Qiu Ling?
Yes, the immortal races were all cursed since many millennia ago. But this was different. This curse was on his family or — at least at the moment — on him alone. It was the kind of shortcoming he would never admit to, not in front of anyone, and surely not in front of Qiu Ling.
Even if the man he loved thought him childish and irrational because of the part he admitted to, that was still better than speaking the full truth. After all, to be personally cursed by the supreme sovereign, what did that say about you? And while the curse hadn’t been put on him directly and had instead been inherited, it just seemed like too much of a stain on his reputation as that he could allow himself to be honest.
Qiu Ling did not suspect him in the slightest. This explanation, it actually made a lot of sense to him. He reached up, gently brushing through Jing He’s hair. “Don’t feel bad about it. I am the last person who would judge you for this.”
Jing He pulled himself out of his own thoughts, leaning closer to Qiu Ling instead. Right now, he wanted to reassure himself that neither this bit of honesty nor the lack thereof that he had managed to display at the same time had made any distance occur between them. “You … are the kind of man who seems to be afraid of nothing. I feared you would look down on me for this.”
Qiu Ling shook his head and leaned even closer, finally taking Jing He into his arms. Anyway, he didn’t seem reluctant to accept it and this was by far not the first time they did this. “I wouldn’t. I would never. Also, I am not fearless by a long shot.”
Jing He smiled faintly, feeling that this should once again be the dragon king’s way of reassuring him. Still, he couldn’t believe it. In his eyes, Qiu Ling was perfect. How could there be anything he was afraid of?
Qiu Ling could see in his beloved’s eyes that he was doubtful. For a moment, he was torn. He didn’t want Jing He to think he was less than either but then, he could also see that this fear of his was making Jing He uncomfortable. As his lover and his future husband, how could he let that happen?
He thought for a moment and finally decided that he should still be honest for a bit. “I do have fears even though they might be different from yours. It is our experiences that shape us. You … experienced something terrifying while you were young and as a result of that, you are now scared of having to go through the same again. For me, it isn’t any different. You know how my parents died when they were young, right?”
Jing He nodded. He didn’t know much about Qiu Ling’s past but he did know about that.
“Well, they were murdered, and … I watched them die with my own eyes.” He looked directly at Jing He’s eyes, watching as his expression changed. “After that, I was afraid as well. To a certain degree, I still am. I am afraid that I will once again lose the people I love the most.” He reached up and cupped Jing He’s cheek again, smiling faintly. “But by now, I have gained strength. By now, I am almost certain that I will be able to protect you.
“The fear is still there but it is not making me freeze in panic when something happens. Instead, I am ready to confront whatever might hurt you. I would do it without a second thought but you shouldn’t believe that deep down, I wouldn’t be anxious. I would be but that fear would make me fight with even more fervor. It doesn’t mean I am fearless though. I never will be. Nobody is. So don’t beat yourself up over it.”