Jing He felt choked up. It was only his own imagination getting away from him but that alone was enough to make his chest feel stuffy. He didn’t want to get married to somebody else. If it couldn’t be Qiu Ling, then he wouldn’t accept another man. He just couldn’t do it.
He closed his eyes and forced his tensed muscles to relax. Right now, it was still early in the morning. Qiu Ling hadn’t come by yet but he hadn’t mentioned that he would be busy today so he expected him any minute now. He couldn’t let him see him in such a state.
Jing He’s expectation was exactly right: He had barely finished calming down when Qiu Ling landed outside the door to the garden in a flourish of black. With a bright smile, he looked at his beloved, one hand held behind his back. “Good morning.”
Jing He’s lips also curved into a faint smile when he saw Qiu Ling. Just now, the way he landed had seemed so handsome and the way he stood with one hand behind his back was the same. That smile made him seem more approachable, lessening how solemn the black robe and his straight posture made him seem.
“Good morning.” Jing He requited his greeting but hurriedly lowered his head. Whenever he looked at Qiu Ling these days, he would inevitably notice all of the good points of his appearance, including the small details. He was afraid that if he didn’t rein himself in fast, he would stare in a daze, making Qiu Ling feel he was too shameless.
Naturally, Qiu Ling wouldn’t actually think so. If it was up to him, his beloved could look at him a little longer. In fact, he’d happily stand there to let him watch all day! Who wouldn’t want that pair of beautiful phoenix eyes to gaze upon them, after all? It was his good luck that Jing He was willing to do him the favor.
Qiu Ling hadn’t noticed that Jing He was admiring his appearance. No, when in front of him, his own thoughts were often preoccupied, and even though he trusted in his appearance, he still wouldn’t believe that it was enough to make Jing He enamored with him. If it was, how could they not be married yet after knowing each other for ten years? No, to reach his grand goal, he still had to put in effort elsewhere!
Qiu Ling’s smile turned even brighter when he thought of how he had put in precisely that effort today. Not willing to wait too long, he strode into Jing He’s palace, only stopping right in front of him. “I am a bit late today.”
Jing He wanted to nod but held back at the last moment. It wasn’t like they had made any kind of appointment. No, in fact, they had rarely done so in the past. Usually, Qiu Ling would just turn up when he felt like it and stay for as long as he wanted.
Most often, that meant arriving early in the morning after he had barely gotten up and ready for the day and leaving in the late afternoon or early evening. The only reason for Qiu Ling to stay away would be if his father was there as if he was trying not to aggravate this person who already had a bad impression of him. Either way, his being late was only based on experience, not any arrangement between them.
Qiu Ling gave a hum before Jing He could respond. “I had my reasons. To be precise, there was something to do in the northern region of my realm. I did think about you while dealing with that though.”
Jing He’s cheeks flushed. Even after ten years, he was not yet immune to Qiu Ling’s repeated confessions. Maybe he would never be. He rubbed the hem of his sleeve, thinking about how to respond when a flower pot was suddenly extended in front of him.
Jing He was very familiar with the flowers of the immortal realms and this one was especially recognizable: About as high as a hand with two pink heart-shaped blossoms growing on the same stalk. This was the lover’s heart, a flower generally used to profess one’s love in the Nine Heavens.
Jing He looked up in a daze. Even if not for the general meaning of this plant, after just telling him that he had thought of him while outside, the meaning of presenting this flower was self-evident. Naturally, he felt touched. Even more so because he knew that Qiu Ling absolutely didn’t care about flowers.
When they had just met ten years ago, Qiu Ling had gifted him what he presumed to be a beautiful flower. Unfortunately, it had actually been a weed though. Clearly, his knowledge was limited. They had talked about some of the plants in his garden though and the lover’s heart was among those. He just never would have thought that Qiu Ling would remember the flower and recognize it out in the open though.
Jing He carefully accepted the pot and his eyes flashed. He had been focused on the plant but now that he looked more closely, he realized that even the flower pot was special: It was made from yellow jade, giving a warm feeling. The side was intricately carved with a scene of nature. A mountain was accompanied by pines, cranes flew over a lake, and the clouds rolled in the sky, lending a touch of tranquility. Everything had been smoothed out so the pot was comfortable to touch.
Jing He carefully turned the pot in his hands, looking at all the details in the carving while making sure not to damage the flower. His heart beat fast, unable to contain his happiness. Such a thoughtful gift, he was naturally ecstatic to receive it from the man he loved. Especially so since the meaning of this gift reflected his own feelings.
He looked up again, a sweet smile on his lips. “Thank you, I like it very much.”
Qiu Ling nodded and reached out, his fingertips brushing over the back of Jing He’s hand. “I remember you once told me about this flower. Back then, I thought I should keep it in mind as an important custom of your people. Later, with the days passing and other things happening, I didn’t think of it again.
“When I went out today, I coincidentally passed by this one roughly at the border of our realms. Seeing it and taking into consideration where it grew, I felt it was a sign.
“We’ve known each other for ten years now and even though I have often told you, I thought I should use this opportunity to reassure you that my feelings for you are still the same. They will always be the same.” He smiled and faintly tilted his head, his hands lowering to the bottom of the pot.
“I don’t know much about plants and I wasn’t sure whether this one should be cut when given to one’s sweetheart. In the end, I decided to take it with some of the local soil and carve this pot for it. There is an array on the bottom that will help with keeping the temperature steady. This way, it won’t wilt as easily. After all, it’s supposed to represent my feelings which won’t fade either.”
Jing He’s cheeks had flushed as Qiu Ling talked and his eyes widened slightly as Qiu Ling went on to describe the flower pot. He couldn’t help but raise it slightly to see the array on the bottom.
Indeed, this one was able to control the temperature and even the humidity which was very beneficial for raising a flower. It could be said that Qiu Ling had created the perfect circumstances for the lover’s heart. Calling this just a thoughtful gift would be an understatement. It really felt as if … as if he had given his own heart to him.