As for the couple, they slowly made their way back to the dragons’ valley. Even though Zhen Zhu had already had the opportunity to see everything on their way there, Zhu Hong figured that he would probably want to take another look around. Thus, he once again made sure to fly slowly.
Just as expected, Zhen Zhu was just as excited on the way back as he had been on the way there. He felt like every moment, he would see something new that he hadn’t actually seen yet. It wasn’t that strange. Everything had been new at first and there had been so much to see that even with their slow speed, he wouldn’t have been able to take note of everything. Now, he had the chance to look more closely at the things that he had missed out on the first time around.
Zhu Hong happily listened to his husband tell him about all the things that he recognized or hadn’t seen before, feeling that this kind of trip outside was really nice. Maybe they shouldn’t have taken as much time to get to know the valley.
While he knew that it was important for Zhen Zhu to know, it was probably not wrong to say that it was also more boring than being outside. After all, in general, the valley had a rather cohesive look: The buildings were all built in the same style, the people there were also all phoenixes or dragons.
After a day or two, Zhen Zhu might’ve been a bit bored. There was only so much that he as his husband could do to change that. Now, there were finally new things to see for Zhen Zhu. And there would be even more after they went to the city. Yes, they should probably not delay that much further.
Thinking of that, Zhu Hong looked toward his husband who was lying down on his palm and sticking his head out between two of his claws, his white hair fluttering in the wind. "Do you want to go to the city tomorrow already?"
At this, Zhen Zhu immediately lifted his head, not caring about what was down there anymore. "Tomorrow?" His eyes widened, already starting to sparkle with joy.
Zhu Hong really wanted to laugh. Even though he hadn’t said yes yet out loud, it sure looked like one. "We can if you want to. We can also wait a bit longer."
Zhen Zhu hurriedly shook his head. "No! It’s alright. I would love to go tomorrow!" In any case, he had been looking forward to this for so long! A week might not be much but after just having gotten married, he felt like it was an eternity. Even being in his egg hadn’t felt that long.
Zhen Zhu happily held onto his husband’s claw and couldn’t help but long for the next day to arrive. "Say, what is the city like?" He stretched his neck out between his husband’s claws again, looking down at the places below. He could see some small settlements there and couldn’t help but wonder if maybe one of them was that city. He really didn’t know how to imagine it.
Zhu Hong realized what he was doing and chuckled again. "Those are just some small villages. Maybe smaller towns as well. The city … it is big. There are a lot of people there, not just phoenixes and dragons but also people from other clans. And because of that, you will also find other establishments there than in the dragons’ valley.
"I think that when you go there for the first time, it might be a bit overwhelming. They have something new at every corner and sometimes you might have trouble figuring out what they even are.
"Also, things look a bit different. Just think of the houses that we live in in the dragons’ valley and then of the mother tree in the phoenixes’ forest. In the city, there are many clans, so there are also many different styles of places to live and work in."
Zhen Zhu hugged his husband’s claw a little tighter. "That sounds so interesting. I wish we could go immediately."
Zhu Hong glanced at him, his heart itching to say that they might as well. Still, the last two days had already been quite exciting and he felt like it might be best for Zhen Zhu to have a bit more rest before they went.
Still, after a moment of silence, he still couldn’t bring himself to not propose it. "Well, we could probably fly there immediately. It is in the other direction than the forest so as long as we just pass by the valley and continue flying, we would be there in the evening. We could find a guesthouse to stay in and then start exploring tomorrow morning. Would you like that?"
Zhen Zhu’s eyes immediately started to shimmer again and he looked so hopeful that Zhu Hong really felt that it was the right thing to have said that.
Zhen Zhu didn’t immediately say yes though. "Well, it would get pretty late if we did that, wouldn’t it?"
Zhu Hong nodded. "It certainly would. It’s a little further away." And with the speed he was flying at, there was no way they would reach early. In fact, it might have already gotten dark by that time. But that wasn’t necessarily bad. The city was beautiful at night as well. That was a view that Zhen Zhu would definitely like.
Zhen Zhu didn’t quite know what to do with that info. "Well, then you would probably get tired by that time. Maybe it would be better if we really just go tomorrow."
Zhu Hong glanced at him, feeling that his little spouse was really too cute. He was actually so worried about him. Just like he had worried that Zhen Zhu might be too tired, his spouse had the same worries about him. It seemed that they really were a couple that was made for each other, bond or no bond.
Thinking of that, he turned back to the front, keeping quiet for some time. Since this was what Zhen Zhu wanted, he should do that. "Well, we could speed up a bit. What do you think?"
Zhen Zhu looked at him, not quite sure what he meant. "Speed up?"
Zhu Hong nodded and turned his head again to glance at him. "Well, I’ve been flying slower so you can take a look but you already know this stretch of the way so maybe you wouldn’t mind. I can speed up until we reach the valley. Then we could make a short stop and at least tell Elder Bi and his family that we are going to the city so they won’t worry. And after that, we can continue to fly to the city. I’ll fly a bit slower then so you can have a look around again. That way, we would reach a bit earlier."
Zhen Zhu’s eyes were hopeful but he was still careful. "But if you fly faster, won’t you be even more tired?"
Zhu Hong shook his head. "Don’t worry, I’ve been flying for many years already. This isn’t going to tire me out. Just say that you want to and we’ll do it."
Zhen Zhu smiled and then lowered his head, actually feeling a bit bashful. His husband was really willing to do all these things for him. How could he not feel like his life was perfect? Thinking for a bit, he finally nodded. "Alright, if it won’t be a problem for you, then let’s do it that way."
Zhu Hong nodded and then reached over with his other claw as well, making sure that he held them close together so Zhen Zhu would still have some space to move around in but couldn’t accidentally fall down. "You hold on tight! If you get scared or don’t like it, just tell me. I’ll slow down again immediately."
Zhen Zhu nodded and hugged his claw but he wasn’t worried at all. When it came to being with his husband, he always felt secure. He didn’t think that he would be scared even if they flew fast.
Zhu Hong made sure that he grasped onto him tightly and then indeed sped up, even though he made sure that he didn’t do it at once but instead just slowly picked up speed.
Since they had only been floating through the air at first, it didn’t seem that much faster at the beginning and Zhen Zhu wondered if it could really make that much of a difference. But then, when things got faster and faster, he realized that his husband had really been doing him a big favor before.
Now, he realized just why Grandelder Lan Jing and the other elders in the phoenix clan had been so worried. If this was the speed that a dragon usually had, then it was no wonder they had expected them much earlier!
Realizing this, he hugged his husband even tighter, feeling happy in his heart. Zhu Hong was really accommodating him so much. He was happy to know that he was willing to do that for him. Also … while looking at things down there was fun, he had to say that flying like this was even better!
The wind was rushing past them, slightly alleviated by Zhu Hong’s claws and scales, but it still rushed through his hair and passed his body, making him feel as if he was the one flying through the air. It was exhilarating! He really wished that he was able to do it as well.
Zhu Hong used his full speed to fly back to the dragons’ valley, taking them there in just a couple dozen minutes. This time around, he didn’t land at the edge of the valley and instead flew over to Elder Bi’s house, landing right in front of the entrance. Since they only wanted to inform Elder Bi and his family and then continue on, it would be best not to waste any time. That way, they would have more time to go to the city and Zhen Zhu wouldn’t need to worry.
The one who opened the door this time around when Zhu Hong knocked, was Chengse. Seeing the two of them, her expression immediately lit up and she pulled both of them into her arms. "You’re finally back! We were really worried when you didn’t return yesterday."
Zhen Zhu and Zhu Hong hadn’t gone to inform the others when they left to make their way over to the forest yesterday but they had told them about it the day before that. Still, most couples would return the same day so when they hadn’t returned in the evening, Elder Bi and his family had worried.
Who knew if something had happened? In fact, they had been wondering if maybe they should go out and search for them just in case. In the end, they decided against it but if these two hadn’t returned sometime soon, they definitely would’ve gone to the forest to see if the phoenixes knew more. In fact, inside, the other family members were already gathered, some of them getting ready to fly over to the forest.
After greeting the two of them, Chengse hurriedly pulled them inside. "You can stop preparing, they are finally back!"
Both Zhen Zhu and Zhu Hong were stunned when they walked in and saw the whole family gathered there, children and all, all showing grave expressions. Zhen Zhu didn’t quite understand what was going on at first but Zhu Hong couldn’t help but smile. It seemed that he had made a bit of trouble for Elder Bi and his family.
He hurriedly inclined his head, giving an apologetic smile. "We decided to stay a bit longer over there so Zhen Zhu could have a look around. I’m sorry. I should’ve told you before that we were planning on that."
The others heaved a sigh of relief, not even angry now that they were finally back.
Elder Bi walked over and also pulled him into a hug, patting his back. "It’s good as long as you’re back. Next time, make sure to tell us though. We were really worried."
Zhu Hong gave a hum and nodded again, feeling that this really wasn’t asking too much. "Well, I’d better tell you immediately then but the two of us will head over to the city now. I promised Zhen Zhu to have a look and if we go over today, we’ll have more time tomorrow to explore. I’m not sure yet how long we will stay."
The others once again showed a look of worry. In any case, traveling with a young phoenix that might not even have fully grown yet and didn’t have much experience was always a difficult matter. Going to the forest was customary and something that needed to be done but flying to the city was more of a luxury and they weren’t quite sure if they agreed that it was one that Zhu Hong and Zhen Zhu should insist on.
"Are you sure about this? Don’t you want to wait at least another week?" Elder Bi looked at Zhu Hong but he shook his head.
"I already promised. And in any case, not much will change in a week. I will just fly over there with him and after that, there isn’t much of a problem anyway." In fact, the city was a safe place. It was guarded and with that many people around, even if there weren’t guards, there would be enough people to help shield a young phoenix from danger. So he wasn’t worried at all.
Elder Bi’s family wasn’t happy though. Ning Meng Huang walked over, looking from the dragon to the phoenix before he finally focused on Zhu Hong again. "At least take one of us with you. You might not need to worry in the city but the way there is still dangerous. We’d all feel better if there was somebody else to make sure you’ll be alright."
Zhu Hong gave a wry smile. "Well, I wouldn’t mind taking any of you along but … well, this is supposed to be a romantic trip. I don’t think you’d really want to do that to yourself."
"Aiya, I wouldn’t mind." Hui Se also came over and reached out to rub Zhen Zhu’s head. "What do you think, Zhen Zhu? Would you mind if your sister Yu Sui and I came along? We’re not going to bother you while in the city, just flying there with you, and then we’ll get a room somewhere else."
Zhen Zhu looked up at the dragon woman, not seeing any problem with the suggestion. He looked at Zhu Hong though, wondering if there was something he had overlooked.
Zhu Hong really didn’t know what to say. Naturally, there wasn’t an actual problem with this. In any case, it was indeed always safer to fly in a bigger group and there would be more people to defend in case something happened. It was just that this was supposed to be a romantic outing. If there was somebody else around, then it wouldn’t really fit that purpose anymore.
In any case, while their main objective was taking a look around the city, the flight there would also be part of the experience. And considering that he had wanted to try and have Zhen Zhu learn how to fly on the way to the city — or maybe on the way back in case he didn’t want to try it out before —, this would be a bit of a hindrance. After all, who knew if Zhen Zhu would still be willing to give it a try if there was somebody else who could see other than his husband?
Zhu Hong hadn’t really given an explanation but Zhen Zhu could see from his face that he wasn’t necessarily thrilled. Even though he didn’t quite understand, he naturally knew what he had to do.
He turned back to Hui Se and gave a bright smile. "I’m sorry, sister Hui Se, but it’s a trip just for my husband and me." He hugged Zhu Hong’s waist, giving her a bright smile. He didn’t know what the problem was so he couldn’t explain any more than that.
Hui Se felt helpless when she saw him like this. She had clearly just explained that they wouldn’t bother them when they arrived in the city but Zhen Zhu still didn’t want to say yes. She really didn’t know what to do.
Yu Sui looked to Zhen Zhu and then walked up to her wife, taking her arm. "Just leave it be. I know we are all worried but it’s also important that they make their own experiences. We can’t always send somebody with them if they go out.
"Now, it might only be the city and it still wouldn’t be a huge deal but in the future, if they decide to go out and travel, then do we still need to go with them? We should trust them a bit more. In any case, they clearly also made it to the forest and back again without problems. It is just that we were overly worried."
Hui Se sighed when her wife said so and nodded. "Well, have fun then. And if there’s any problem, you’d better rush back here!"
Zhu Hong nodded, feeling happy that they cared so much. "We definitely will. And the offer is much appreciated. It is just that this really is supposed to be more of a romantic outing. Even if you aren’t next to us the whole time I think it would change the vibe a bit to take you long. Especially since we’ve only recently been married, I think that isn’t quite the right time. Next time, I wouldn’t say anything."
Hui Se felt a bit frustrated but it wasn’t like she didn’t get this. She had also been similar when she had just been married to Yu Sui. Which dragon didn’t want to spend some one-on-one time with their phoenix? And especially the first few weeks were the most important for bonding. They really shouldn’t impose too much. Not that she felt that it really was asking too much to go to the city with them. But still, she couldn’t change their mind. Thus, she could only accept.
Having convinced the others, Zhu Hong and Zhen Zhu bid farewell to them and then left the house under the gazes of Elder Bi’s family.
Zhu Hong didn’t wait and immediately changed his form, picking up Zhen Zhu and then rising into the air before he dashed off.
Elder Bi clicked his tongue. "That silly boy! Look at how he’s rushing off. You’d think he was afraid we would secretly follow after them if he didn’t manage to shake us off soon enough."
Chengse gave her husband a pointed look. She didn’t say anything but the meaning contained in her gaze was evident: Don’t tell me you wouldn’t have done that if he hadn’t reacted like this.
Elder Bi winced and hurriedly went back into the house. "Anyway, I’m not interested in making any trouble. If they want to be alone so badly, they might as well. I’m not going to tell them what they can and can’t do."
Li Se chuckled. "So he says, but his gaze surely said 'how can they leave me behind like this!' Leave it to father to pretend like everything is alright when he is actually fuming inside."
The others laughed as well and then followed inside. To be honest, they all felt similar. If they could, they definitely would’ve wanted to go along just to make sure that nothing happened. In their family, they had lost many people as well and even though Zhu Hong himself might have some reservations, they definitely saw him as a member of their family. So whether it was him or his new spouse, they didn’t want for anything to happen to them.