Qiu Ling contained his disappointment about not being able to meet Jing He two years earlier and also didn’t dwell too much on what this meant for the current state of their relationship. Although it did cross his mind that if he had had those two years before, they would’ve already been acquainted for eight years which might’ve made their wedding be right around the corner. But either way, that wasn’t important right now.
He continued to hold onto Jing He’s chin, his smile deepening. “That is to say that actually, it was eight years ago. I’m not sure if I would still call that recent.”
Jing He didn’t know how to react. Whenever his father was speaking about this, it sure sounded like it had only been yesterday. But, when Qiu Ling put it this way, it had indeed almost been a decade since then. He couldn’t say that it had only been recently. A decade might not be much, but it was still more than enough that he shouldn’t even have to think about his coming of age ceremony any longer.
Even though he agreed, he couldn’t do anything. Because right now, Qiu Ling was so close, it made him unable to say a single word. Actually, it was less about physical closeness. He had experienced that many times in the past. But the way that Qiu Ling was clasping his chin and making him look straight into his eyes gave him the feeling of being tightly bound by him in a way that he had never experienced before.
Qiu Ling observed his expression and wondered if he had somehow gone too far with what he had just said. It didn’t seem like such a big thing but Jing He was looking at him strangely. As if this was completely unexpected and had stunned him into silence.
Thinking about it, this shouldn’t be about telling him that it had already been eight years. No, even if Jing He hadn’t unconsciously thought about it before, that didn’t seem like something that would make him react like this. No, rather than that, this should have to do with what had happened before. Yes, most likely, Jing He was still worried about him offering him the wine.
Qiu Ling glanced into the distance and felt that being nervous wasn’t too strange. Anyway, Jing He had grown up sheltered. Why wouldn’t he be worried about drinking? This was likely the first time he had the chance to do so.
Actually, that was a beautiful thought. After all, Jing He’s first time doing pretty much anything that was shared with him was something that would strengthen their connection. Why wouldn’t he be happy about that?
He smiled to himself and then took out the flask of wine, holding it up. “Well, back when we went to your father’s birthday banquet, I specifically made sure with An Bai and Xiang Yong that this was suitable for your consumption. So you shouldn’t have needed to worry about that in the first place. By now, another six years have passed, so I think you could drink a cup with me. How about it? You don’t have to but I’d feel honored if you shared this moment with me.”
Jing He looked at the jar of wine in Qiu Ling’s hands, only feeling that the dragon king looked stunning when this free-spirited. In fact, he wasn’t too eager to try the wine himself but … he would have liked to watch Qiu Ling drink. That should have a special kind of charm.
The thought made him feel embarrassed and he would have liked to look away, afraid that Qiu Ling might somehow be able to read those filthy things from his face. Unfortunately, Qiu Ling was still holding his chin and he clearly wouldn’t let go before he didn’t get a response.
Jing He took a shallow breath, wanting to give in just because this was Qiu Ling but his rationality still won in this case. “My father probably wouldn’t like it.”
Qiu Ling inclined his head, the words ‘well, he doesn’t need to know’ at the tip of his tongue. But then, asking Jing He to lie to his father didn’t seem like a good idea. He wanted to deepen his own relationship with Jing He, not jeopardize the relationship between Jing He and his father.
His parents were important to Jing He so he would do well to remember that. Even though he didn’t necessarily like the Heavenly Emperor, he still had to tolerate this person. Not badmouthing him right in front of his beloved seemed like a good idea.
He gave a low hum, wondering how he could say the same thing without making it sound so callous. Eventually, he let go of Jing He’s chin and put the flask down, instead taking out a set of cups. “Well, as we’ve established beforehand, your father is overprotective.
“I don’t think one cup would be a problem. But … I can see why you would be worried. Anyway, the dragons’ ability to drink is strong. Maybe the opinion of a god is more valuable in this regard. Have you talked about this with somebody else? Your uncle, perhaps?”
Jing He hesitated while he watched Qiu Ling pour only one of the cups, then hold the flask and wait for his response. To be honest, he had never asked about this because he had not been interested. Drinking had never even occurred to him.
But right now, he was with Qiu Ling, and Qiu Ling had offered this to him and even said he would like them to do this together. He had thought about something that was connecting them in the past and wanted to make use of this in the present to deepen their connection. Of course, he was ecstatic to know this.
Anyway … maybe drinking that one cup wouldn’t make him drunk. Or even if it did, what was the worst that could happen? Not to mention that whatever else it was that Qiu Ling wanted to do afterward, he could say yes without a guilty conscience. He could just pretend that it had been the wine that was getting to him, making him susceptible to things he would usually never agree to.
In fact, maybe … Jing He’s cheeks flushed without him knowing when an even bolder idea occurred to him. Yes, why should he stop there? He could pretend to be drunk. After all, this was the first time for him. Who knew if the alcohol wouldn’t really get to him? Whatever he did afterward would not mar his reputation in Qiu Ling’s eyes. Instead, it would just make him seem fragile and vulnerable, maybe even a bit lovely.
Jing He hesitated for a moment but then reached out to pick up the cup that Qiu Ling had clearly intended for himself. “Now that you mention it, while I didn’t ask my uncle whether it was suitable for myself, he did mention a few stories from his youth that would indicate as such. I guess it can’t hurt to try. Either way, you are here to … ensure nothing happens to me.”
He lowered his gaze, afraid to look into Qiu Ling’s eyes. These words, they clearly indicated his trust and maybe they could even give him a glimpse of his feelings. He wouldn’t dare to voice them out loud but he did dare to allude to them like this. He could only hope that Qiu Ling would indeed pick up on it.
Qiu Ling actually didn’t but he looked at Jing He with his eyes twinkling. Seeing his lover this way was quite novel. He sure liked it. If Jing He could always be this daring, that would be nice. Or, actually, maybe it was especially nice because he usually wasn’t like that. It made this moment even more special.
He smiled to himself, filled the other cup to the brim, and put the flask down. Raising the cup to Jing He, his smile deepened. “Well then, to shared memories.”
Jing He gazed into Qiu Ling’s eyes, feeling as if he could drown in them. “To …” Lifelong love? That sure was what he wanted to say in his heart but, of course, those words couldn’t be uttered aloud. Still, he had to say something.
His gaze darted around, trying to figure out just what to say. It shouldn’t be that difficult to figure out. Anyway, it was just a toast. But then, he had never done this before and also hadn’t been at many gatherings where there would be wine so he wasn’t sure what was usually said. His ambiguous relationship with Qiu Ling didn’t make things easier. Should he say some general well-wishes or maybe something that connected them or would mean a lot to Qiu Ling?
Qiu Ling watched him and felt that this was adorable. He had never seen Jing He at a loss for words. Well, he had, actually, but usually, that was thanks to his outrageous behavior, not like right now where he was stunned by the situation. For once, it made him seem as young as he was and that … well, it was enticing in its own way.
Qiu Ling lowered his gaze to the glittering surface of the wine in the cups and gave a hum. “You can slowly think about it and tell me afterward.”
Jing He looked at him, a bit embarrassed that he couldn’t think of anything at this moment. “I’m sorry. It’s just … I’ve never done this before. I am unsure what would be appropriate.”
Qiu Ling tilted his head to the side, his brows rising faintly. “I would always be happy about being wished that my marriage proposals are going to be accepted soon, for example. But then, you wouldn’t need to toast to that. Just say yes the next time I ask.”
Jing He’s cheeks flushed. He pulled back the cup, taking a sip to busy himself and find something else that he could mention.
Qiu Ling chuckled and downed his own cup, feeling that even though that hadn’t been a toast, Jing He’s reaction was good enough. He’d take it as a sign.
Qiu Ling actually wasn’t drinking often. If he did, he had a reason, and he would continue until he was blackout drunk. Otherwise, he might politely accept a cup whenever it was necessary. It wasn’t wrong to say that he didn’t quite enjoy drinking. It made him feel … lonely and as if darkness was enveloping him.
Right now though, the wine seemed especially sweet. Maybe it was because it was that kind of flowery wine that he would usually pass up on but he felt that most of it should have to do with this company. If drinking was always like this, he could get used to it.
As for the person opposite him, he was surprised as well. “It doesn’t taste that strong.” He really had expected something else. He had read about it leaving a burning sensation but that wasn’t the case at all. Instead, it was a little sweet and flowery, almost like the teas he would sometimes drink, just that there was a different aftertaste. It was … somewhat odd but not in a bad way.
He wasn’t sure how to put it and he couldn’t help but take another sip to figure out his feelings. Anyway, he wasn’t too worried anymore. It didn’t seem that strong. If he drank a cup with Qiu Ling, surely, nothing should happen.