Qiu Ling, king of the dragon race and self-proclaimed most handsome man of the three immortal realms, stared at the invitation in his hands with disdain.
"Do I really have to attend that old man’s birthday banquet?"
An Bai gave a perfunctory smile. "He is the Heavenly Emperor, after all. His status demands at least a little respect."
"Hmph." Qiu Ling threw the invitation away that was luckily caught by another one of his advisers.
Xiang Yong hurriedly tugged it away before their king could get some other ideas. Like ripping it up, for example. What kind of impression would they give the gods if they showed up with a ripped invitation? "Your Majesty, look at it this way: He wouldn’t have a banquet if it wasn’t a special birthday. So, most likely a lot of people will be there. You’ll just have to go, show your face for a while and then you’re free to go again. That’s the benefit of being the king. He’ll understand that you don’t have much time."
"Mn." Qiu Ling didn’t look impressed at all but he didn’t say anything more. It was too late anyway. Somehow — he wouldn’t look too closely into that or else he might have to go through the hassle of selecting some other advisers — the invitation had only turned up on the exact day of the banquet. Since he hadn’t sent word that he wouldn’t attend he would have to go or else he would really anger the gods. He couldn’t do that. Even though he didn’t feel like he needed them, they had still been allies for many years. There was no need to make things overly complicated. It would be easier to go to that stupid banquet for a while.
Qiu Ling sighed. "Alright. Then let’s go."
"Your Majesty … How about wearing something different?" An Bai dutifully waved at a servant and picked up the robe he was carrying.
Qiu Ling narrowed his eyes. This was obviously a set-up! How dare these guys arrange all of that without letting him know! "Whose idea was this?"
An Bai didn’t say anything and just offered up the robe.
Qiu Ling snorted. "I’m already good-looking as I am. No need to dress up anymore."
"Your Majesty, it’s a special occasion." Xiang Yong took the robe from An Bai and shoved it into Qiu Ling’s arms. Honestly, they would get nowhere if they discussed everything with him. The banquet would be over by the time they managed to get him dressed up, take the present and learn a few lines he could recite in front of the Heavenly Emperor to look courteous.
Qiu Ling took a look at the robe. Well, it was a nice one. He probably wouldn’t lose out wearing it. "I don’t need it," he reiterated but disappeared behind a folding screen to change.
An Bai and Xiang Yong both took a relieved breath and readied the present they had chosen for the Heavenly Emperor. When Qiu Ling came out again they hurriedly shoved it into his arms and smiled.
"You’re looking great, Your Majesty!" Xiang Yong flattered him. "You’re definitely going to be the most handsome man there.
"Naturally. What’s this?" Qiu Ling eyed the present suspiciously.
"Since it’s a birthday banquet you’re supposed to bring a present, Your Majesty." An Bai made sure to mention it just in case their king really thought of just going there to show his face and tried to run off as soon as that was achieved. "I took the liberty of organizing something. This is a wine made out of blossoms some of which can only be found in our realm so you could probably call it a specialty of our kingdom. It’s not very strong so it’s suitable to be drunk by the women and young people of the gods."
"He’s an old man, though." Qiu Ling grimaced. Just thinking of that wrinkled old face with that goatee … Ugh. Did he really have to go?
An Bai motioned to the door as a precaution to make sure their king wouldn’t reconsider at the last possible moment. "But he cherishes his wife very much and his son came of age not too long ago. He can share it with them and create some beautiful memories."
"It might be a good idea to mention that when you offer the present," reminded Xiang Yong. Who knew if their king would just hand the thing over and hurry away afterward? The Heavenly Emperor would certainly be offended. As amicable as that guy tried to look, he definitely had as much of a temper as their own king.
Qiu Ling pursed his lips. He’d rather drink it himself.
Xiang Yong cleared his throat. "Ah, it has already gotten rather late. We should hurry over."
"We?" Qiu Ling arched a brow.
"Well, it wouldn’t be appropriate coming alone considering your status." In fact, we just want to make sure you don’t embarrass us while you’re there. "Actually, it would be best to bring a few more people but then you couldn’t slip out halfway." Just in case two of us aren’t enough to hold you back when you’re trying anything weird. Unfortunately, nobody else was up to it. Yi Zan might have come along but he was out on another mission so that was impossible. Ah, he really wanted to sigh but that might give his thoughts away.
"Mn. I guess that’s true." Qiu Ling didn’t think further about what those two said. He just put the wine into his spatial ring and strode out of his chambers. Ah, he’d just get it over with. How long could it take to offer a present? He’d just go deliver it, say a word or two of what those two had said and then hurry back home.
That was the plan, at least. He certainly never would have guessed that he’d be thinking the complete opposite just an hour later.