While Xiang Yu was having an existential crisis, Qiu Ling and Jing He were using the opportunity to catch up.
At this moment, Jing He was still lying in his lover’s arms, loathing to let go after finally having him back for once. “My father has been introducing marriage candidates to me.” He didn’t want to admit this but he knew he had to tell Qiu Ling. It was still better to hear it from him than from others, after all. “Believe me, it’s not what I want but there was nothing I could do.
“He … he’ll call me over under some excuse and then leave me alone with them. Nobody said it’s for that purpose but it’s obvious with his behavior. I’m not sure if he has told them either.” Knowing his father, he might not have. At most, he should have implied something. Still, just the fact that he was setting up such meetings away from others … it was disrespectful to Qiu Ling.
Actually, Qiu Ling didn’t feel that bothered. He happily hugged Jing He, his fingers brushing through the satiny strands of hair that were running down his back. “I know he did. I’ve kept an eye on the situation even if I couldn’t come to see you.”
“I’m sorry. This … it really shouldn’t be happening.” Jing He looked up, not sure what else to say. Seeing those men and exchanging more than just a greeting felt like a betrayal to him and he couldn’t find the words to justify himself.
Qiu Ling shook his head. “It’s alright. I know it’s all your father. Anyway, I’m not worried anymore. The two of us … I don’t think it’s that easy to make us part.” In the past, before the trial had happened and when Jing He hadn’t promised to marry him yet, he might have felt anxious as soon as this happened. Now, even if he didn’t like to see it, he knew it wouldn’t change their relationship.
At the end of the day, Jing He would still be in love with him and those men would at most be an unwelcome memory of his father’s stubbornness. He wouldn’t develop feelings for them and he wouldn’t agree to marry them either. Not even if his father pushed him further than this.
Qiu Ling’s fingers stopped combing through Jing He’s hair and he reached up to cup his cheek instead. “Seriously, you shouldn’t worry either. Your father is just playing some tricks. He won’t be satisfied with either of them anyway so there’s no need to feel anxious.”
Jing He nodded. “You’re probably right. So far, I haven’t seen either of them more than once. That probably proves that my father felt reluctant about each of them.”
Qiu Ling hummed. “That’s what I thought.” He looked at Jing He and his expression turned solemn. “You know, if it does get too much, you can say no. They can’t force you to spend time with them and your father can’t either.”
Jing He nodded again but this time, he seemed somewhat hesitant. “I know. I just … you know I’m not good at this.” He lowered his head and absentmindedly grabbed the jade pendant hanging from Qiu Ling’s belt, playing with it. “I don’t want to defy my father. I never wanted that. I just … I feel like I should be better than this. I should listen to him. It’s what I should do.”
Qiu Ling wasn’t sure how to react. He knew Jing He was like this. It had been a problem before the trial but at that time, it hadn’t mattered yet. After all, even Jing He himself hadn’t agreed to his proposal. But now, things were different. Jing He wanted to marry him and he had said so. He should be able to stand up to his father and make this clear. Unfortunately, he did not have that kind of courage. Not yet, at least.
“Is there something I can do to make you feel less like that?” This was the only thing he could think of. Of course, he could wait for Jing He to change his mind but he had seen how long that could take. In fact, he was somewhat surprised that he had even spoken up against his father once. That was pretty much a small miracle already.
Jing He looked up but shook his head. “No, I’m afraid not. Unless you’ve thought about a way to convince my father.”
“No.” Qiu Ling raised his brows and sighed, casually wrapping his arms around Jing He’s waist again. “If it was that easy, I would have done so long ago. It’s also not like I wouldn’t be willing to wait any longer. It’d be a pity, yes, but I could do it. I know how much his blessing means to you, after all. But now, he won’t even let us meet. How can that be alright?”
Jing He nodded and hummed softly. In fact, there was a way around this and that was to simply elope and get married in the dragon realm. Thinking of that method, his cheeks flushed red and he hurriedly lowered his head again, his gaze boring into that jade pendant.
Qiu Ling raised his brows. “My love, what were you thinking of just now?” He faintly tilted his head, feeling somewhat intrigued. He didn’t think his words just now had been outrageous. On the contrary, he felt like he was being rather tame today. After such a long separation, this was something worth praising himself for!
Jing He hurriedly shook his head. He couldn’t bring himself to say it. “It’s nothing.”
Qiu Ling pretended to believe him and instead looked at the jade pendant as well. “Do you like it?”
Jing He raised his head, not sure what he meant. He wasn’t even completely aware of what he was doing and had simply been trying to avoid Qiu Ling’s gaze.
Feeling that he had been so well-behaved before, Qiu Ling’s eyes twinkled. He took the pendant off in a swift motion and tied it around Jing He’s belt instead. “Well, if you do, you can keep it. Just take it as a love token and look at it whenever you miss me.”