Ning Qinghuan woke up and found her spirit refreshed. The unforgettable sounds and scenes she experienced last night had also been pushed deep into the depths of her mind.
As her mother had grounded her, Ning Qinghuan obediently stayed in her courtyard. She sat in the courtyard pavilion, copying Lessons for Women while basking in the sun. Meanwhile, Jun Zishu sat nearby and quietly watched Ning Qinghuan complete her punishment.
However, Jun Zishu could tell that her cousin wasn't putting her heart into copying the book at all. Although Ning Qinghuan's writing looked relatively beautiful, she wrote very quickly as if she was copying someone's homework.
"Alright, that's enough for today. Pack everything up for me, Shaoyao."
Ning Qinghuan massaged her aching wrists as she instructed her maid.
In response, Shaoyao swiftly tidied up the papers and writing utensils on the paper and left to store them away. Then, she returned with two plates of pastries and a pot of tea.
Jun Zishu found that life in ancient times was very boring. She would often spend an entire morning or an entire afternoon just sitting down and doing nothing productive. Despite her current body being only 13 years old, she felt as if she was living the life of a 73-year-old.
Those used to such a lifestyle might be fine with it, but those unfamiliar with it would find themselves losing their minds. Fortunately, Jun Zishu managed to adapt herself to this boring lifestyle to a certain extent.
"Do you know how to do embroidery, Little Sister?" Ning Qinghuan suddenly asked.
Jun Zishu nodded in response. She might not know how to do embroidery back on Earth, but the owner of her current body was relatively skilled at the craft.
"Can you embroider something for me, then?"
Jun Zishu found herself something new to do, and that was to embroider stuff for Ning Qinghuan.
Jun Zishu thought about embroidering something on a handkerchief and giving it to Ning Qinghuan. However, she couldn't think of what to embroider for the moment.
"What kind of design do you want, Big Sister?"
"Mm... How about a rabbit? Can you do that, Little Sister?"
"Mhm. You seem to like rabbits a lot, Big Sister."
Jun Zishu thought about the rabbit masks Ning Qinghuan had bought for her and realized that the girl seemed to like rabbits a lot. Though, Jun Zishu personally felt that the image of rabbits did not match Ning Qinghuan at all.
"Mhm, because they're very cute."
Ning Qinghuan smiled as she looked at Jun Zishu.
Embroidering a rabbit wasn't a particularly challenging task. Although Jun Zishu's proficiency wasn't at a professional level, the rabbit she embroidered had a vivid and naive appearance.
Ning Qinghuan happily received the completed handkerchief and stuffed it into her sash. Then, she took out another white handkerchief and said, "Little Sister, good things come in pairs. Can you embroider another one for me?"
Letting out a helpless sigh, Jun Zishu embroidered another rabbit in a different posture for Ning Qinghuan.
After the little incident that night, nothing much changed in Jun Zishu's life. If she had to point out a change, then it would be that she had become a frequent guest in Ning Qinghuan's room since that night.
Madam Ning was a little surprised when she saw her daughter getting along so well with Jun Zishu. However, she didn't pay much attention to the matter and simply let the two girls do what they wanted.
Jun Zishu initially had trouble sleeping with Ning Qinghuan as the latter didn't have a particularly good sleeping habit. Her cousin would often place a leg on top of hers and turn around to embrace her like a bolster.
However, after experiencing such situations several times, Jun Zishu had gotten used to it already. Now, no matter how much Ning Qinghuan stirred in her sleep, Jun Zishu could sleep soundly until morning.
The only thing that worried Jun Zishu now was her "missing" pendant.
The fourth prince never sent anyone to return the pendant. According to Little Fairy, he had stored the pendant in his drawer, and it was still there till this day.
Jun Zishu thought that the fourth prince might have forgotten about the pendant's existence already. As she couldn't just go and ask for it, she had no choice but to treat it as missing. Fortunately, Ning Qinghuan had given her a new one, and it currently hung on her neck.
Summer arrived in the blink of an eye.
The capital's noblewomen often liked to host small gatherings whenever they had nothing better to do.
On one summer day, Ning Qinghuan and Jun Zishu had received an invitation to a lotus admiration banquet. As the second princess hosted this banquet, everyone who could attend had to attend out of courtesy.
After dressing up, Ning Qinghuan and Jun Zishu got onto a carriage and made their way to the banquet.
Ning Qinghuan wore a blue dress today, which dampened the imposing aura she gave off significantly. She also walked in small and steady steps.
Ning Qinghuan personally preferred wearing red clothing. However, the color red was too striking and eye-catching, and Ning Qinghuan disliked becoming the center of attention in such banquets. She wanted nothing more than for everyone to ignore her existence entirely. Unfortunately, that simply wasn't possible. Even without wearing an eye-catching dress, her appearance and identity were more than enough to attract many eyes to her.
Meanwhile, Jun Zishu also wore a blue dress similar to, but slightly different from, Ning Qinghuan's dress. Yet, despite both of them wearing somewhat identical dresses, the dresses gave off completely different effects.
Jun Zishu gave off the feeling of an orchid blooming in the dark. She remained unassuming as she walked with light steps. In comparison, Ning Qinghuan gave off a much more powerful presence. Despite being clad in a graceful light-blue, she gave off a dazzling feeling.
Jun Zishu didn't speak much at the banquet. She only smiled and gave polite responses whenever the ladies at the banquet approached her. Fortunately, she didn't hold any significant status in the empire, so those noblewomen weren't particularly interested in her.
When Jun Zishu saw the fourth prince in the banquet, she realized that the second princess had also invited male guests today.
The fourth prince beckoned Jun Zishu, and Jun Zishu hesitated whether to approach the other party.
According to Little Fairy, the fourth prince currently carried her pendant on him, so he should be here to return it to her.
After mentally struggling with herself for a moment, Jun Zishu eventually chose to retrieve her pendant. She had the feeling that should she continue leaving the pendant at the fourth prince's side, something bad was bound to happen.
"I'll head over there for a moment, Big Sister. The fourth prince seems to have something to say to me," Jun Zishu whispered into Ning Qinghuan's ear.
Ning Qinghuan originally wanted to go with Jun Zishu. However, as she still needed to continue entertaining the people greeting her, she could only let Jun Zishu go by herself and told her to return quickly.
On the other side of the lotus pond, Jun Zishu approached the fourth prince and made sure to put an appropriate distance between them.
"Is this your pendant, Little Sister Wan'er?"
Sure enough, the fourth prince took out Jun Zishu's pendant and waved it in front of her.
"Yes. So it was at Big Brother Four's side? I thought I already lost it forever that night."
Jun Zishu widened her eyes, pretending to be surprised.
"I haven't been able to find a suitable time to return it. Here, I'll return it to you now. Make sure to hold onto it properly in the future."
The fourth prince handed the pendant to Jun Zishu. In response, Jun Zishu received it and stuffed it into her sash.
"That's all from me. You can go back now."
The fourth prince smiled.
Unlike the fifth prince's smiles that looked warm on the surface but cold on the inside, the fourth prince's smile was the complete opposite. He behaved cynically on the surface but was very attentive towards matters on the inside. Such a personality tended to have a fatal attraction toward women.
Although Jun Zishu's female heart remained unmoving, feelings of compassion still rose within her.
In the summer of next year, the man before her would lead his troops to suppress a band of bandits. Then, when he returned from his victorious expedition, he would lose his life in an epidemic area.
Jun Zishu initially thought she could help the fourth prince to avoid his tragic fate. However, based on her current circumstances, she lacked the influence necessary to do so. She also couldn't possibly tag along with the fourth prince on his expedition.
Jun Zishu's eyes wandered for a moment as she tried to think of a solution. Then, she suddenly came up with a good idea.
"Do you believe in past lives, Big Brother Four?"
The fourth prince was stunned. He did not expect Jun Zishu to bring up such a question.
"If there is a past life, I must've met you before."
"Is that so?"
The fourth prince grew interested and stood still to continue listening.
[Chotto matte. Are you flirting, Host?]
No, I'm saving someone.
"If I never met you before, then why do I keep…"
Jun Zishu took a few steps forward, moving closer to the fourth prince.
The fourth prince thought that the young lady before him intended to flirt with him. Although he didn't know what brought about such a change, he was nevertheless interested in it.
"Why do I keep picturing your death in my mind?"
"Cough, cough, cough…"
The fourth prince choked on his saliva, his face instantly turning red.
The abrupt development was akin to a romance film suddenly turning into a horror film.
"Little Sister Wan'er, you…"
"Be careful in the summer of next year."
"What do you mean?"
People of ancient times often believed in superstitions. Jun Zishu's act also looked very sincere, so the fourth prince couldn't help himself from believing her words.
"In next year's summer, make sure to come to find me before you set off. This is the only thing I can sense. There is nothing I can do about it, either. However, you must live, Big Brother Four."
Jun Zishu portrayed a solemn look. As soon as she finished speaking, she walked away without caring about the fourth prince's feelings.
Life was like a play, and everything relied on acting.
If the fourth prince refused to believe her, Jun Zishu could only regretfully give up on the route of making him emperor, even if she wanted nothing more than to send the fifth prince and Pei Xiuyun to heaven.
[I think you'll have a very bright future as a fortune teller, Host.]
Tsk, give me the ability to see the future first, then talk.
Jun Zishu walked some distance away from the fourth prince and stood by the lotus pond.
The pond's water was a little murky, and many lotus flowers were floating atop the surface. The flowers came in pink and blue, and they looked very beautiful.
"I didn't think you would do that kind of thing, Little Sister Wan'er."
A voice rang in Jun Zishu's ears, confusing her momentarily.
The voice's owner wore lotus green clothes, and there was a hint of melancholy in her eyes. Naturally, who else could this be but Pei Xiuyun?
Jun Zishu was perplexed. What exactly did she do?
"I saw it already, so you don't need to quibble. I can't believe you have that kind of relationship with the fourth prince. How can you do this to us?"
What nonsense is this? What are you talking about? What did I do to you?
"It must be humiliating for Big Sister Qinghuan to have a little sister like you?"
What is she talking about, Little Fairy?
[I don't know, either. How strange. Her brain must work differently than ours.]
"What do you mean?"
"You should know that Qinghuan and Big Brother Five are good friends, Little Sister Wan'er."
"Mhm. What of it?"
"Big Brother Five doesn't have a good relationship with the fourth prince, so how could you have that kind of relationship with the fourth prince? You two exchanged personal keepsakes!"
Realization dawned upon Jun Zishu. Pei Xiuyun must've seen the fourth prince returning her pendant and misunderstood it as him gifting her a pendant.
Jun Zishu wanted to laugh. Even if the fourth prince had given her a pendant, what did it have to do with Pei Xiuyun? What right did the girl have to criticize her?
Tsk, tsk. What great timing. I was just agonizing over how I should distance Ning Qinghuan from the fifth prince.
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