Qiu Ling sighed and hugged Jing He closely. “I wish I could stay here tonight.”
Jing He froze in his arms, his eyes widening. To be honest, before he went on his trial he had let Qiu Ling spend one night at his palace, even going so far as to share a bed. Thinking about it, he felt vaguely ashamed of himself but at that time, he hadn’t been able to bear not saying yes when Qiu Ling asked.
Now, Qiu Ling was asking him again. After the worry of the last week, today’s strange behavior in the beginning, and then that row of revelations, he felt torn between what to say.
On the one hand, he craved Qiu Ling’s company more than ever. If Qiu Ling were to hold him in his arms, only separated by a thin blanket and the layer of their clothes, he’d feel a lot more reassured. It would be like a silent promise that Qiu Ling still loved him just as much as he had before the trial no matter what had happened.
On the other hand, he wanted to follow their customs even more obstinately after this whole ordeal. At the back of his mind, there was always the worry that Qiu Ling would start to think of him as a shameless slut willing to throw himself into his arms. That certainly wasn’t the impression he wanted to leave him with. No, he wanted to show Qiu Ling that he was worthy of him. Thus, he couldn’t be too forthright.
Qiu Ling noticed that Jing He had gone even more silent than before and glanced up at the sky, inwardly cursing his cheap mouth. Despite mellowing out a lot both over the decade he had spent with Jing He and the millennium shared with Jing Yi, the effects of the long time of pretending to be somebody he wasn’t couldn’t be eradicated that fast.
His first instinct might still always be to do something like this. The fact that, well, he really wanted to be close to Jing He naturally didn’t help. His true thoughts and his pretense overlapped, making it almost impossible to keep back.
Qiu Ling coughed lightly and then pulled back, brushing Jing He’s hair behind his ear. “Don’t worry. I know it’s against the traditions of your people so I won’t insist. I … I’ll just come back as early as possible tomorrow morning. That is … if you want me to.” He gave him a questioning glance, feeling that at this time, this was something that should be asked. He had told Jing He so many new things and there were still his returning memories that should occupy his mind. He might want some peace and quiet to think about all of it and come to terms with it.
Jing He smiled faintly. “I would be happy to receive you.” This much, it shouldn’t be a problem to admit, right? After all, even if it wasn’t official just yet, privately, they had agreed to get married in the future.
Qiu Ling nodded. “Great.” He rubbed Jing He’s cheek and then glanced up at the sky before sighing deeply. “It’s getting dark. We should probably go back inside.”
Jing He also looked up. The sky that had originally been tinted with a light orange had turned bright red and now, a trace of gray was approaching from the horizon. Soon, night would fall. “That seems to be for the best.” He retracted his gaze and instead turned to his palace before looking back at Qiu Ling.
At this moment, he couldn’t help but feel self-conscious about sitting on Qiu Ling’s lap again. He … had not intended to do this. He had just been pulled by Qiu Ling and hadn’t rejected it but it felt strange now that he would have to get up. Would Qiu Ling think more about this?
The answer to that … well, Qiu Ling wasn’t considering that aspect at all. Inwardly, he was already thinking about all the things he’d have to do after going back while lamenting that he had to separate from his beloved so soon after just getting him back. He actually felt rather aggrieved that he had wasted a whole week hunting demons. Not that they didn’t deserve it but he had missed out a lot because of this.
He sighed to himself, grabbed Jing He tightly, and put him back on his feet while getting up himself. “I guess there’s no way you’ll let me stay until after it has gotten dark either?” He would gladly make up for even just a little of the time he had missed out on but with how traditional Jing He was, this seemed unlikely to be allowed.
Jing He looked at him with heartache. He had been torn about letting Qiu Ling stay the night. That just seemed to go too far. But what he was asking now … it didn’t seem too much in comparison?
Jing He lowered his gaze and finally dared to reach out, his fingers lightly brushing Qiu Ling’s sleeve. “You’ve been here for a while and you must have been very busy before. Maybe … maybe you’d like to come in to have some tea and eat something?”
Qiu Ling raised his brows. “Well, if you’re asking like this …” He happily took Jing He’s hand and led him back to the palace. He could see that Jing He still felt troubled by this whole thing so he thought for a moment and felt that he should give him some additional excuses. “Actually, I haven’t been sleeping or eating these last seven days since the battle. I’ll admit I’m slightly exhausted.”
Jing He looked up, his gaze worried. “This week … how have you been doing?” Qiu Ling had told him a lot and he had admitted that his mortal reincarnation’s death had hit him hard but he had been vague about anything after that. Now that Qiu Ling spilled this detail, he couldn’t help but wonder what exactly had transpired.