Qiu Ling’s gaze deepened but finally, he smiled and took out another jar of wine from his spatial ring. This one wasn’t the light flower wine he had wanted to give Jing He but one that was more popular in the dragon realm. “My track record may be bad but I am not impatient. If there is something I want, I will work toward it step by step. My future father-in-law’s approval is just a question of time and effort.”
Qiang Yan faintly raised his brows and pushed over his cup, letting Qiu Ling pour him a new one. “Don’t think it’ll be that easy. Bai Fen and I have different thoughts on this matter. My brother-in-law won’t accept you easily.”
Qiu Ling gave a hum while he put the jar to the side. “I know but it’s a matter of fact that I wouldn’t have had an easy time convincing him no matter how we started out. What he dislikes about me … it is simply the fact that I am getting close to his precious son.” His gaze roved around. “Well, and maybe my age and my race and my handsome face.”
Qiang Yan’s brows raised. “He should at least be impressed by your humbleness.”
Qiu Ling chuckled. “I pride myself on that.” He took a sip of the wine, his eyes narrowing. “No, in all honesty, no matter what I have done in the past, he still wouldn’t have liked me, would he? Back then …” He tilted his head and thought of the day he had seen Jing He for the first time.
His whole mind had been filled with him as soon as he heard his voice so he hadn’t paid much attention to anything else but he did remember that the trueborn god that had stepped forward to extend his well-wishes before had complimented Jing He. He himself hadn’t been happy to hear that and if he wasn’t wrong, the Heavenly Emperor’s expression hadn’t looked good either.
“He hates all men who dare to have thoughts on his child. But Jing He is an adult now. There is no way to always hide him away. I don’t think it would be good for him either.”
Qiang Yan nodded. “The latter is the reason why I am on your side with this. I’ll be frank with you: I would have preferred Jing He to fall in love with a trueborn god as well. It would make a lot of things easier.”
Qiu Ling lowered his gaze and stared at the alcohol in the cup, withstanding the urge to really get drunk now. He hated hearing words like this. In the eyes of the Heavenly Emperor and apparently, even in the eyes of the God of War, a dragon wasn’t as good as a god. If they knew about his true heritage, he likely wouldn’t even get to see Jing He any longer.
Thankfully, this was his well-guarded secret. There were at most two people aside from him in this world who knew the truth. One of them had vanished long ago and likely had no interest in returning to the dragon realm. The other … well, that one was troublesome but so far, he hadn’t exposed him so there wasn’t any reason to worry yet.
Qiu Ling pushed the thought away and looked back up at the God of War. “I know I am not a god. But I believe that the troubles this brings can be overcome. Anyway, haven’t we managed to get along much better these years? It’s been so long, I believe that what remains to be learned about each other’s races won’t trip us up.”
Qiang Yan nodded. “I believe this as well but there are other considerations to be had, aren’t there? You are the king of the dragon race. Jing He … one day, he will be the Heavenly Emperor. How do you intend to navigate this? Have you thought about it?”
Qiu Ling leaned back and took another sip of the wine. Of course, he had thought about it. He had especially thought about it because he knew that Jing He would. “So the God of War is basically asking me about my intentions.”
Qiang Yan smiled wryly. “If you want to say it like this. It’s … not meant as a slight. Please, don’t perceive it this way. I’m simply worried about Jing He. At this point, I doubt there is a chance to turn back so we will all have to look toward the future and try to prepare as best as we can.”
Qiu Ling nodded. “That is true. You don’t need to worry though. This might surprise you but … I don’t particularly care about being king.” He looked at Qiang Yan, his gaze stable. “Actually, Jing He and I just talked about this today but when I became king, it wasn’t by choice. I never wanted the throne but it was … forced on me, in a sense, after the war.”
Qiang Yan had a rough idea of how things had gone back then but he was fuzzy on some details. Qiu Ling’s attitude was something he had never known about. To hear this from his own lips now … “But you never gave it up either.”
Qiu Ling gave a hum and lowered the cup, looking at it with furrowed brows. “I suppose I could at any time but … it feels odd. I’ve been king for so long and even though I might not look like it, I do care about my people.
“To suddenly step back without building up a successor first would cause chaos. And I don’t need to tell you what the demons would do if that happened. Jin Ling has kept quiet these last centuries but it is only a question of time before war finally erupts again. I am certain that he would gather his people the day I announced my retirement.”
His gaze flickered for a moment and he finally shook his head. “Apart from these considerations … I believe Jing He would like me to keep the throne. At least for a while, it seems like the right decision.”
Qiang Yan raised his brows. “Jing He?”
Qiu Ling smiled faintly. “He is … well, he pays attention to appearances. To marry a dragon, that is something going against his beliefs as well. If it had been before he met me and developed feelings, I am sure he would have simply followed his parents’ arrangement when it came to his marriage. If you had asked him for his own opinion and forced him to say who a suitable candidate is, he likely would have pointed to one of the titled gods, a heavenly general, or one of the leaders of the other eight Heavens.
“Somebody outside of your race never would have entered his eyes. Even an ascended deity would be pushing it but could be considered suitable if the status is high enough. As for me, the reason he even started to think about it is simply that I happen to be the king of the dragon race. If I had been in any other position, it would have been impossible.
“So, I think it is safe to say that if I want to marry Jing He, I have to do it while still carrying the title of Longjun. Then, later, after the news surrounding our wedding has died down, it doesn’t matter what I do because the one he will have married will always be Longjun Qiu Ling.”
Qiang Yan couldn’t answer for a moment. It wasn’t just the dragon king’s age that he tended to forget about. Because this guy usually looked harmless, he also forgot easily just how frightening he could be in terms of both strength and intellect.
Yes, this man was frighteningly smart and he was clearly able to see through people’s hearts, even if he might doubt himself sometimes or was tripped up by the fact that their races differed in some ways. Anyway, he had seen through Jing He alright.
His lips moved but it took him a moment to respond. “Do you believe my nephew to be shallow for not accepting you unless you are king?” He watched Qiu Ling’s expression, trying to read his expression from there but he couldn’t detect the slightest change as if he was either very guarded or as if he didn’t care at all.
As for Qiu Ling, he kept quiet for a while. In the end, he simply raised his cup to his lips and took another sip, emptying the rest of the wine. “How could that be?” But after everything he had said before, those words were hard to believe.