In the Nine Heavens, Duan Ming held his cup of tea with an awkward expression. He felt himself to be somebody who easily got along with others and could always find a topic to talk about but today … today, everything was different.
He had returned to the Nine Heavens a while ago, not wanting to bother Leng Jin Yu and his husband any longer after what had happened in the dragon realm recently. He had even managed to drag Lan Ling back with him, lest he made things even more uncomfortable than usual. Now, he regretted it.
In the dragon realm, he could have an eye on Lan Ling and make sure he didn’t go overboard. He might even be able to make himself useful somehow. Even if the two of them just stayed idle and tried not to get in anyone’s way, it would still be better than the current situation.
He looked up at the person sitting opposite him, his expression still troubled. Just one glance at that ramrod straight sitting posture and the tense shoulders and you’d know that the other side did not even want to be here. The fact that he had been staring into his cup of tea consistently, barely acknowledging him at all past what was required by the rules of politeness was another tell-tale sign. Of course, even without that, he would have expected nothing else. After all, he was aware of the matter with the dragon king.
Duan Ming cleared his throat. “Your Highness … I do realize that you have no desire to have this conversation.”
Jing He finally raised his head to look at Duan Ming. The situation right now could best be described as his father’s clumsy attempt at setting him up with a man other than Qiu Ling.
This son of the Goddess of Magnanimity in front of him was actually candidate number three after his father hadn’t liked the way the other two looked at or talked to him. In his eyes, they were too eager which apparently wasn’t a good trait to have for a suitable future spouse as far as his father was concerned. Naturally, that only made Jing He warier of Duan Ming.
Since sitting with him, this person hadn’t said much and clearly felt awkward throughout the whole ordeal, wanting nothing more than to get away. There had been a time when he would have felt anxious at that thought but, right now, Jing He really couldn’t care about it.
His heart hurt. Since the day he had admitted in front of his father that he wanted to marry Qiu Ling, it hadn’t stopped hurting once.
He had thought his father would give him a stern talking to, once again reminding him of all the reasons he had thought up that were supposed to prove why Qiu Ling wasn’t a suitable husband for him. Strangely enough, that hadn’t happened. After making Qiu Ling leave, his father hadn’t even bothered to stay around and had instead returned to his own palace, leaving Jing He to stew in his own thoughts.
Of course, he already knew everything his father might have wanted to say so whether they had that talk or not, it didn’t matter too much. Either side’s attitude was clear. And yet, his father’s refusal to talk to him still hit him hard.
His whole life, he had done what his father or mother wanted from him. This was the first time he had dared to wish for something else and even say so out loud. The reaction he received … he would be lying if he said it didn’t hurt him. But he also knew that his father was stubborn and it wasn’t easy to change his mind. Thus, he could only hope for his mother and Qiu Ling to come up with a way. There was certainly nothing he could do.
Well, that wasn’t quite true, was it? There was at least one way for him to show his attitude: By not being swayed by these marriage candidates his father sent his way. Naturally, that had never been an option anyway.
Jing He looked at Duan Ming, his expression not changing. Not even the smile that he had always worn on his lips for official occasions could be seen. “Is that so?” In the past, he would have reassured this person but he couldn’t do that to Qiu Ling. Just thinking of how he would feel if he knew that he even talked to Duan Ming … He already felt like he was betraying him by not getting up and walking away. But he was actually afraid of what his father would do if he tried.
Duan Ming gave a hum. “I presume Your Highness remembers that the two of us met during your trial?”
“Then you should also know that I am aware of your relationship with Longjun.” Actually, he had been aware before. It wasn’t like the dragon king had been subtle about trying to woo the Son of Heaven. Even though most gods weren’t privy to how far that courtship had gotten him, they at least knew better than to get in his way. There were some rivals in love you simply couldn’t afford to have.
At this, Jing He’s expression finally changed slightly and his cheeks actually flushed. He hadn’t been aware of how widespread the knowledge about the matter between him and Qiu Ling was. So to him, somebody knowing still felt odd. He would have thought that nobody save for his own family members and Qiu Ling’s most trusted people would know. Duan Ming … even though he had known them through his trial, he couldn’t be considered part of either group.
Duan Ming hummed, lowering his gaze. To be honest, if not for the dragon king, he wouldn’t have anything against this arrangement. The Son of Heaven … he was indeed very pretty and when he wasn’t trying to purposefully snub him, he was likely a good conversational partner as well. Unfortunately, he was several years too late.
As somebody who saw himself as a gentleman, he naturally wouldn’t try to force the issue. No, since the crown prince had already made his choice, he would accept it. In fact, maybe there was even something he could do to help.