Jing He didn’t voice these thoughts and even though Qiu Ling noticed that his beloved was still in a complicated mood, he didn’t say more. Anyway, he felt like Jing He’s worries could only be lessened after taking a step forward. Talking alone wouldn’t change much.
Soon, the two of them reached the gate of Bai Fen’s palace. Qiu Ling really wanted to continue holding Jing He’s hand and lead him in proudly but … well, he also knew how Jing He was. With that kind of thin skin, he’d be mortified to be caught like that with a man who wasn’t yet his official fiance. It really was a pity, ah!
Qiu Ling squeezed his lover’s hand and gave him a reassuring smile before letting go. “Let’s go in.” He nodded at the guards and almost walked straight past them. At the last moment, he stopped himself though. This was very important business so he should pay attention to his behavior. It would be best if Jing He’s mother couldn’t pick out a single fault.
He cleared his throat and turned to look at one of the guards. “Is the Heavenly Empress in?”
The guard glanced at Jing He and inclined his head. “Yes. Should we send somebody in to inform her of Longjun’s and His Highness’ arrival?”
“Mn.” Qiu Ling nodded and folded his hands behind his back. Thinking of his mother-in-law who would soon be holding that title officially, he felt like she might be surprised when he was announced. Usually, he had also just sneaked in and not bothered about these things.
The guard nodded but took another glance at Jing He to see if their crown prince had anything else to say. Since it didn’t seem to be the case, he walked a few steps to wave at one of the servants and then had them relay the arrival of these guests. Finally, he returned to his position. “Please wait a moment.”
Qiu Ling gave another nod and then kept quiet.
The guard actually felt a little uncomfortable. Should their crown prince really be required to wait to see his own mother? But then, they could hardly let him in and make the dragon king wait, could they? They didn’t want to jeopardize the relationship between their races, after all.
The servant felt the same way so he rushed in as fast as he could to inform the Heavenly Empress.
Hearing that her son and Qiu Ling had come together, Bai Fen faintly raised her brows. “Are they? Well, let them in then!” Waiting for the servant to leave, Bai Fen turned to Qiang Yan who was currently sitting opposite her with a cup of tea in his hand. “Both of them at the same time. Do you also feel like there is more to this?”
Qiang Yan smiled. “Well, Qiu Ling finally returned yesterday. After the whole debacle that was Jing He’s trial, I wouldn’t be surprised if he was trying to push things along further.”
Bai Fen gave a hum. “Yes, he might be in a hurry.”
Outside, Qiu Ling and Jing He were informed by the servant that the Heavenly Empress invited them in. The person even led the way.
Jing He’s fingers couldn’t help but rub the hem of his sleeve. In just a few moments, they would talk to his mother about this matter. What should he say then? Most likely, Qiu Ling would lead the conversation but he probably couldn’t stay silent, could he? At the very least, his mother would want to hear from him that he wanted the same as Qiu Ling. And yes, this naturally couldn’t be denied. He just didn’t know yet how to say it. He wasn’t used to being so open with his feelings.
He glanced at Qiu Ling and told himself not to panic. They weren’t even inside yet and the conversation hadn’t started. What use was worrying over it? He should just wait patiently and see how everything played out. When the time arrived, he might find the right words to be obvious.
The two of them walked into the main room of the palace and Jing He looked up only to find his uncle also sitting there. He froze but then told himself that this was for the best. Anyway, they had wanted to tell both his mother and his uncle. Now, it seemed that they could do this without having to have the same conversation twice. That made it slightly less scary, didn’t it?
Bai Fen looked at her son first before turning to Qiu Ling and giving him a smile. “It’s good to see Longjun again. You had us worried when news about the battle arrived.”
Qiu Ling inclined his head. “I’m sorry for that. There were some complications so I wasn’t able to return at once.” He hadn’t explained this to anyone but Jing He but then, whether it was the Heavenly Empress or the God of War, they were aware of what Tian’s curse entailed for the dragons so this didn’t need to be said.
Bai Fen nodded and motioned at the two seats that were left at the table. “Why don’t the two of you sit down? My brother and I were just chatting. It’s nice to have some additional company.”
Qiu Ling nodded and took the seat next to Qiang Yan before looking at Jing He. His beloved looked a bit pale as if the prospect of having this conversation really frightened him.
Qiu Ling sighed inwardly and looked at the door to the garden that was open just like the one in Jing He’s palace often was. The only difference was that the garden of the Heavenly Empress was contained in the middle of the palace due to its bigger size while Jing He’s smaller palace looked out over the garden beside it.
Strangely enough, if he hadn’t known, he would have expected it to be the other way around. After all, his beloved was the type to keep everything inside while Bai Fen was much more open. But then, maybe he should take this as a sign that it was possible to lure Jing He out of his shell as long as he found the right point of entry.