Jing He barely noticed the latter part of what his uncle said. When he mentioned his being ‘the person his king loves’, his face flushed red and he hurriedly looked away.
His mother and uncle had never made a secret out of their agreement with him marrying Qiu Ling. From the moment they had met, his mother had told him to give this a chance and she had become more optimistic about it as time went on. But despite the ten years that had passed since then, he still couldn’t help but feel strange when they said something like this out loud.
Qiang Yan raised his brows at his nephew’s reaction. Well, he probably should have expected this. Stopping in the middle of the road, he reached out and grabbed his arm, pulling Jing He around so he had to face him. “What I want to say is that you shouldn’t interpret too much into this. Your An Xin would definitely not be the reason even if something happened to Qiu Ling.”
Jing He finally looked up again. Even though he still felt embarrassed about what his uncle had said before, his main concern was still Qiu Ling’s well-being and, of course, he had noticed that his uncle hadn’t actually said that Qiu Ling wasn’t injured.
Knowing that he would one day follow his father on the throne of the Nine Heavens, he had naturally prepared himself. While he might not have many contacts, he was able to read people well and also read between the lines. This was even easier when he knew the person as well as he did his uncle.
In this case, his uncle had danced around the topic, telling him that adviser Qiang Wei wouldn’t know how to deal with him or that An Xin wouldn’t be the reason for any injuries. And yet, he hadn’t said even once ‘Qiu Ling is well’ or ‘He isn’t injured’ or any other direct reassurance that Qiu Ling was unharmed.
Even though Jing He understood this point, he hesitated. He didn’t know how to bring it up at all. He lowered his head and brushed An Xin’s fur, his brows furrowing. Finally, he forced himself to look up. “When you went to the dragon realm, did you see Longjun?”
Qiang Yan watched Jing He’s movements closely. Of course, he also realized that Jing He had likely caught onto the problem. It was just … he couldn’t lie. They didn’t know how exactly Qiu Ling was doing. If he said that Qiu Ling was alright but then it turned out that this wasn’t the case, Jing He would suffer even more. He couldn’t risk that.
No, with how much Jing He cared for Qiu Ling, he needed to be gentle when he told him. In fact, it might be best to prepare him step-by-step. This way, the shock wouldn’t be too big and he could slowly get used to the idea that not everything would be the same when they met again.
He sighed and then reached out, patting Jing He’s shoulder. “I know what you’re thinking. To be honest, I didn’t see him. But from what I heard, he wasn’t injured.”
Jing He lowered his gaze again, not reassured at all. Just some hearsay, how could he put any stake in that? No, he wanted to talk to somebody who had actually seen Qiu Ling and could tell him what exactly was going on.
Qiang Yan raised his hand and gently cupped Jing He’s cheek. “Don’t worry, I do trust this piece of news. Qiu Ling is strong. Likely … no, definitely much stronger than I am.”
While Jing He was on his trial, he had fought Leng Jin Yu. This guy was a relatively newly-minted ascended deity but after merely regaining memories of his previous life, they were on the same level now. As for Qiu Ling, he was stronger than that. So yes, how could he compare?
Qiang Yan didn’t dwell on it and instead focused on Jing He. “Yes, he was certainly in the thick of battle but with his position in the dragon realm, you can be sure that his advisers would stay close by. If not all of them, then at least a few. So the chance for him to get injured and grievously at that is almost nil.”
“Then why …” Jing He didn’t dare to say that thought out loud and could only hang his head.
Qiang Yan rubbed his cheek with his thumb. “You’ve never been in a battle yourself. Sometimes, what is scary about it is not the fear of being injured or losing your own life but having to watch what happens around you.”
Jing He raised his head again. Suddenly, it seemed to dawn on him what was the real reason behind everyone’s evasive behavior. “Did he lose somebody close to him?”
Qiang Yan hesitated for a moment but then nodded. “That seems to be the case.”
“I see.” Jing He didn’t know what to say. He felt ashamed. He had worried for Qiu Ling’s physical well-being but he had failed to grasp that his mental state might be worse. And … to be honest, there was a small part of him that couldn’t help but wonder why Qiu Ling wouldn’t come to him.
The two of them knew each other well. They had talked about many things in the ten years they knew each other and he had always felt that Qiu Ling felt comfortable while with him. So, after suffering such a blow, why did he not come to him?
If it had been the other way around … Surely, he would have wanted nothing more than to rush to Qiu Ling’s side and find solace in his arms. It seemed that, in the end, he simply couldn’t give Qiu Ling the same peace of mind that Qiu Ling gave him. It really … was a pity.