After spending six years together, Qiu Ling knew Jing He’s taste very well. Thus, the dishes he had taken along were mostly things that he was sure his beloved would like. He had only added a couple that were more out of the ordinary, thinking that maybe Jing He had just never had the chance to try them since they were native to the dragon realm but might still like them.
Time slowly passed. The two of them shared a cup of tea and Jing He asked about the dishes that Qiu Ling had brought along, using the opportunity to learn more about the daily life in the dragon realm.
He might not say it out loud, but inwardly, he couldn’t help but think that one day, he would live there as well. After marrying Qiu Ling, that would be a given, right? Thus, it was best to prepare for that day.
While he might not be able to know everything ahead of time, each piece of information would make his life easier at that time and also decrease the burden that his presence would put on Qiu Ling. He surely couldn’t make his husband lose face by bringing him over. Not to mention that his being unaccustomed to the dragon realm and showing that might also affect the gods adversely.
After tasting half a dozen dishes, Jing He put down his chopsticks. They had the whole day ahead of them and he couldn’t eat that much at once. Also, as much as he wanted to learn, he didn’t want his whole time with Qiu Ling to be occupied by this. No, he especially wanted to learn more about this man himself.
He turned to look at Qiu Ling and met with the dragon king’s gaze that had hardly left him since the time they met up this morning. Jing He’s heart fluttered when meeting those eyes and he lowered his eyelids. “I’ve been thinking …”
Qiu Ling leaned a little closer until his fingers almost touched Jing He’s. “Tell me.”
“You mentioned the anniversary of your coronation last year and I couldn’t help but remember when you brought over that musician from the dragon realm.”
Qiu Ling nodded. Yes, the decision he made that day had sure seemed like the right one. Jing He might not have said much that day or even afterward but his mood had seemed to be lighter. “Yes, Yu Gan. I believe she is quite famous in the capital city.”
Jing He nodded. “She played a song from the previous …” He hesitated at that point, not sure how to call it. In the gods’ realm, the Heavenly Emperor was also the next generation but this wasn’t the case for the dragons. Also, he still wasn’t sure about Qiu Ling’s feelings on this matter.
Qiu Ling noticed his complicated expression but he didn’t mind it. “The previous king’s reign, you mean?”
Jing He gave a faint hum. “Yes, indeed. You seemed a bit … different at that time.”
Qiu Ling actually took back his gaze for once, unable to look at Jing He at this time. Instead, he looked out into the landscape before them, feeling reminded of the place where he had spent so many years of his youth. “His name was Jinde.”
Jing He nodded. This much was known to many people. Even though it had been a long time since then, many still remembered the time.
“He was very well-beloved among our people. For one, he was a good king. And second, he was a great beauty.” He faintly raised his brows and rubbed his forehead, feeling a headache when he thought back to that person.
Next to him, Jing He tensed. A beauty? He seldom heard Qiu Ling praise others. In fact, come to think of it, in these six years, he had never praised anyone in front of him. Well, other than maybe if they met his mother and he tried to sweet-talk her so she would help him with something but that hardly counted. For him to speak about another person like this if that person wasn’t there to hear … it gave him a sense of crisis.
Qiu Ling might not have looked at him but his attention never left Jing He for long so, naturally, he noticed his change. For a moment, he was startled, and it took a while before he realized what had caused this change. When he did, he had no idea what to say. His gaze roved about and finally, he cleared his throat. “Jing He, say, do you think your mother is a beautiful woman?”
“Ah?” Jing He stared at him with wide eyes, not knowing where that had come from.
Qiu Ling turned back to him and sighed. “I bet you do. Anyway, it’s not wrong. Her appearance is good, her temperament is pleasant, and of course, as her child, you will always be a bit biased toward her. How could you not think she is a beauty?”
Jing He still didn’t understand why Qiu Ling would suddenly bring that up but he nodded. “She is, I really think so.”
“Mn.” Qiu Ling smiled faintly. “That’s how I felt about Longjun Jinde. You know that my father was his right-hand man. I think I’ve mentioned it before. Even if I didn’t, An Bai should have done so.”
Jing He nodded again. This really wasn’t news.
“So, you also know that I grew up around him. In fact, I spent quite a bit of time close to him. He was … a lot like your mother, in a way.” He fell silent for a moment, thinking back to those times. His heart was in upheaval but he tried not to let it show on his face. There were many things he couldn’t tell Jing He but since his beloved showed some interest in his past, he at least wanted to tell him a bit.
“People know that my father worked closely with him. What most don’t realize is that his private feelings were a bit wrong. He was absolutely infatuated with him.” He looked at Jing He’s expression, trying to see how he would take this.
Jing He’s expression was mostly blank. He had no idea what to think. He knew that Qiu Ling was not the son of the previous dragon king. So if his father … It seemed there was more to this than he had thought.
Qiu Ling cleared his throat again. “I can imagine what you’re thinking. ‘What about your mother then?’ That’s a question that might be better left unanswered.”
Jing He immediately lowered his head but Qiu Ling reached out, gently put his fingers beneath his chin, and tilted his head up again.
“Don’t be. The relationship between my parents wasn’t good. That’s just how it is. I don’t really feel sorry for her. Anyway, she squeezed her way in-between two people who might have had a good life together. Ending up with a husband who never loved her is really something she deserved.”
Jing He’s gaze flickered. “You … didn’t have a good relationship with her?” This was probably the most intimate look at his life that Qiu Ling had ever allowed him. Thinking of that, his heart seemed to soften even further for this man even though that was hardly possible.
Qiu Ling shook his head. “I didn’t. Actually, for a long time, I wasn’t that close to my father either. He …” He hesitated for a moment and then cleared his throat again. Unsurprisingly, he still had trouble talking about these things. Well, it was no wonder. He had never really spoken about this with anyone. “My father sucked at raising children.
“I think he just didn’t know what to do with me. If it’s that small, it can’t even hold a sword, can’t transform into its dragon form either. What can you really do with it? That was probably how he thought.”
Jing He was startled and his eyes widened faintly.
Qiu Ling looked at him and felt his heart stir. He hesitated for a moment but then covered Jing He’s hand, interlacing their fingers. “It got better as I got older, probably also because we left the palace. At that time, we were living in the countryside, only the three of us. Since he disliked his wife, what was he to do other than spend time with his son? With the days passing and me turning older, we got closer. Unfortunately, he died early.”
“I see.” Jing He was happy to hear these things but he still felt sorry that he had brought up bad memories. This wasn’t what he had wanted to do.
Qiu Ling sighed deeply. “Anyway, at the time when we still lived in the capital city, I had been close to Jinde. Compared to my father, he was the type that did very well with children. I was … really attached to him. If I’m being honest, I still miss him sometimes.”