Qiang Yan didn’t know how to respond to that so he could only keep silent, quietly pouring himself another cup, and drinking.
When Qiu Ling didn’t get an answer, he looked up and realized that even though he had said this, it clearly hadn’t had the intended effect. He sighed and put his cup down on the desk with a sigh. “I wouldn’t call him shallow.”
“But Jing He has certain expectations. It comes with the territory of being the Heavenly couple’s son who is set to inherit the throne, I guess. He bases his whole behavior on this knowledge. Of course, his search for a spouse would be the same. It’s my luck that I am the current dragon king and if I had any reason to wonder whether this between us was fate, I’d say this is a pretty good indication.”
Qiang Yan smiled. “I’m sure you would be able to find a thousand reasons if I let you.”
Qiu Ling requited his smile, his gaze turning soft. “But of course. I could write you a list if you’d like me to.”
Qiang Yan shook his head. “No need. Either way, you’re not wrong. His status compels him, more than it might need to.”
Qiu Ling gave a hum but his thoughts couldn’t help but wander. Actually, there was another part that he felt might play into Jing He’s decision on him but this was something that was more difficult to grasp. “He really seems to like that story of the sovereign and his lover.”
Qiang Yan kept quiet for a moment but still nodded slowly. “He does. That story … I’m not sure what exactly attracts him to it so much but he has always liked it, even when he was a lot younger.”
Qiu Ling gave another hum. Jing He had told him the story some years ago and the way he had looked when he did … it showed his feelings quite well. This story held an almost fatal attraction to him.
If he had to guess, then Jing He saw himself in Xing and he was waiting for a lover like Tian. In general, this should not have been a problem but those two … while the story sounded romantic at first glance, there was also something dark about it.
Xing had been the unloved child of the Heavenly Emperor at that time and Tian was his solace, the one who saved him from the darkness. He had relied on his husband’s strength and comfort to prop himself up and go on in this world where he was shunned by others. But when his husband had to leave for a while, everything crumbled.
Looking back on the experience of his own life, Qiu Ling couldn’t deny that he understood the appeal. In a sense, he was the same, wasn’t he? He pretended to be somebody he wasn’t, he was scared that anyone could find out about his heritage and that he could lose the place among his people that he had made for himself over the years. Not to mention that he was longing to have a family again and he was putting all his hope on Jing He to fulfill that wish.
But putting those expectations on a person made life difficult. If you couldn’t live by yourself, how could you live with another person? Rather than pulling yourself out of the mud, it was more likely to pull the other person under with you, damning the two of you.
Wasn’t that what had happened between Tian and Xing in the end? One went crazy and fled, the other cursed the three immortal races, and went on a long search for a person who did not want to be found. There was no happy end there even if one considered that Tian might have found Xing one day. After all, even if he did, could that change the situation?
Qiu Ling shook his head and turned to look at the door to the other room where Jing He was still sleeping. The two of them were actually quite similar. They were both drowning and they had somehow seen that in the other person. Now, they were clinging to each other in the hope of being saved this way but there was no saying if it wouldn’t just cause them to finally sink to the bottom together.
He lowered his gaze and sighed before turning back to Qiang Yan. “Either way, I will marry him as soon as he is ready. Hopefully, that will be when his father agrees as well but I don’t mind going ahead with this even without the Heavenly Emperor’s approval as long as Jing He is willing.
“Later, I can slowly prepare for somebody to take over so the dragon realm will not be in danger. By the time Jing He becomes the Heavenly Emperor, I will simply follow him back here.” His lips quirked up when he thought of that time. “Ah, does that make me the Heavenly Empress then?”
Qiang Yan suddenly choked. He had never met the previous Heavenly Empress since she had long been dead when he and his sister arrived in the capital city so, to him, this title was tied to his sister. Even if it wasn’t though … he couldn’t picture the dragon king in that position.
He cleared his throat and hurriedly poured another cup of wine to get over his embarrassment. “I’m sure there will be a more suitable title.” Downing the wine, he put the cup down with a clank before he turned to look at Qiu Ling seriously. “However, I am happy to see that you have thought it through.”
Qiu Ling inclined his head. “We’ve talked before and I think you know that I am serious about Jing He. Since this is the case, I will naturally not just leave these kinds of important matters up to fate. You might think I’m irresponsible but, to be honest, that isn’t all there is to me. I’m just … tired.” He lowered his gaze but he couldn’t hide just how true this statement was.
Qiang Yan watched his expression for a while and then simply nodded. “I have been the God of War for a while. Sometimes, I feel like it is too much. All that responsibility on my shoulders, the decisions that could cost the lives of the guards under my palace but also those of the people living in the capital city and maybe even the other eight Heavens … It’s not easy. I don’t even want to imagine how much more difficult it is to shoulder the responsibility of a whole realm and all its decisions.”
Qiu Ling nodded. “I don’t know how my predecessor did it. He … always had a smile on his lips despite everything.” Usually, he wouldn’t think of him but since Jinde had already come up in his conversation with Jing He before, that beautiful face entered his thoughts uninvited.
Yes, in his memory, Jinde was always smiling. No matter what was going on in the dragon realm, he would always be like that. Of course, he had been stern as well. He had seen him scold his father several times for his sake and that man who usually didn’t mind standing toe to toe with anyone would suddenly lose his temper. There was no second person who could achieve something like that.
Qiang Yan had watched his expression, thinking that the previous statement would surely be followed by something more but, finally, he only found Qiu Ling sitting there with a lost expression. Qiang Yan was startled and continued to look at him for a moment. Finally, he retracted his gaze and reached out to pick up the jar of wine, reaching over the desk to fill Qiu Ling’s cup.
For the first time since he knew him, he suddenly realized that maybe … the dragon king was just as lonely as his nephew was.