The unexpected princess carry had come so suddenly that even Jun Zishu was given a shock, let alone everyone else.
The fifth prince's twitching face quickly returned to normal. Even so, his heart remained restless.
He had always known that Ning Qinghuan was a rough person. However, Ning Qinghuan had once more refreshed his understanding of strong women.
Meanwhile, Pei Xiuyun covered her mouth with an embroidered handkerchief to hide her surprise. Inwardly, though, she was thrilled to see this sight.
Ning Qinghuan had just shown herself to not have an ounce of a lady's dignity. Any normal man wouldn't like such a woman.
Only the General's manor could raise such an uncouth lady.
[Let me conduct an interview, Host. How does it feel to be held in a princess carry?]
My cousin is very cool and pampers me a lot.
Jun Zishu did not expect that a 13-year-old girl would be the one to claim her first princess carry.
[Are you touched?]
Nope, nope, not at all.
"Wan'er accidentally twisted her foot," Ning Qinghuan said, making up an excuse to explain her actions. After all, she couldn't possibly say that Jun Zishu had run out of breath after a small jog. She still needed to protect her little cousin's dignity.
In contrast to Jun Zishu's frail body, Ning Qinghuan's body appeared to be brimming with strength. She showed no signs of struggling when carrying Jun Zishu in her arms, and only after reaching the carriage did she let Jun Zishu down.
"You're too light, Little Wan'er," Ning Qinghuan joked.
Jun Zishu smiled in embarrassment before thanking her cousin.
This body she occupied was indeed very light. After all, not only did she have a small appetite, but she also frequently fell ill.
On their way back, Little Fairy suddenly spoke up in Jun Zishu's mind.
[The fourth prince has left his home, Host. He is currently on the second floor of a nearby teahouse, and he just so happens to be sitting next to a window.]
Jun Zishu initially thought this was a good opportunity to enact her plan when she heard Little Fairy's words. However, she quickly dismissed her thoughts as she felt that the situation was inappropriate. Even if she could persuade Ning Qinghuan to visit the teahouse and meet the fourth prince by chance, nothing would come of it. After all, Ning Qinghuan still belonged to the fifth prince's faction right now.
Hence, Jun Zishu felt that she needed to make Ning Qinghuan dislike the fifth prince first before all else.
Ning Qinghuan was only tolerating Pei Xiuyun's existence because of the fifth prince and a few of her close friends. Meanwhile, using the discord between Ning Qinghuan and Pei Xiuyun was undoubtedly the best way to make Ning Qinghuan lose her patience and part with the fifth prince's group.
Based on Ning Qinghuan's temper, once she grew disappointed with the fifth prince, she naturally wouldn't be willing to marry into the fifth prince's manor and become his consort.
In the end, Jun Zishu kept her mouth shut. Only, when passing by the teahouse, she opened the curtains beside her and looked up at the teahouse's second floor.
As luck would have it, the fourth prince happened to be looking downstairs at this time, so he immediately saw a girl sticking her head out of a carriage's window and looking up at him.
When their eyes met, Jun Zishu smiled at the fourth prince, stunning him. Then, the fourth prince smiled back at her as well.
"What are you looking at?" Ning Qinghuan curiously asked when she saw Jun Zishu looking out the window.
"Nothing," Jun Zishu replied before retracting her head and closing the curtains.
When they arrived back at the Ning manor, Ning Qinghuan had expressed that she could still carry Jun Zishu back to her room. However, Jun Zishu refused and chose to walk using her own two feet.
Jun Zishu still wanted her dignity. She hadn't become so weak that she couldn't even walk.
After Jun Zishu enjoyed a footbath at night, Ning Qinghuan ordered a maid to massage her feet.
"Your body is too weak. You need to walk more often in the courtyard with me from now on and train your body, do you understand?" Ning Qinghuan sternly said. Jun Zishu's body was originally very frail already. If she refused to exercise on top of that, her body's condition would only worsen.
Yes, yes, anything you say, Cousin.
Jun Zishu obediently followed the scheduled life Ning Qinghuan prepared for her. After waking up and having breakfast every day, she would exercise her limbs in the courtyard with Ning Qinghuan. However, unlike Ning Qinghuan, who practiced martial arts to train her body, Jun Zishu only needed to walk a few circles around the courtyard.
After persisting through this cycle for half a month, Jun Zishu's body became a lot healthier. Her relationship with Ning Qinghuan had also improved a lot.
"Little Wan'er, I heard that there's going to be a lot of fun to be had on the western street tonight. Let's go join in the fun," Ning Qinghuan whispered into Jun Zishu's ear, making sure that Shaoyao, who stood nearby, didn't hear her.
"Okay. But will it only be us?" Jun Zishu asked as she pointed at herself and Ning Qinghuan.
Ning Qinghuan nodded with a look of excitement.
Ning Qinghuan planned to sneak out of the manor with Jun Zishu without bringing any servants. They would even be going to a crowded place. If they let Madam Ning find out about this, the woman definitely wouldn't agree to let them go.
"I'll head back first and come for you later once I'm ready."
Jun Zishu didn't have any opinions. All she needed to do was go along with her elder cousin's words. In any case, nothing important would be taking place around this time, according to the original plotline.
Afterward, Ning Qinghuan returned to her room together with Shaoyao. However, a moment later, she left the room by herself.
"I knocked her out. She'll be nagging at me non-stop if I bring her," Ning Qinghuan said, clicking her tongue. Then, she held Jun Zishu's hand and led her out of the manor. However, Ning Qinghuan didn't choose to leave through the main entrance. Instead, she led Jun Zishu to a tree that was situated next to the manor walls.
"I'll climb over first and catch you on the other side."
Ning Qinghuan effortlessly climbed the tree and hopped over the wall, the proficiency of her actions showing that she had frequently carried out such acts.
Meanwhile, Jun Zishu did her best to climb the tree and crouched on top of the wall. She couldn't help but grow a little excited since this was her first time jumping over a wall. However, while the manor's walls weren't particularly tall, Jun Zishu still felt a little dizzy when she looked down.
"Jump down, Little Wan'er. Don't be scared; I'll catch you," Ning Qinghuan softly said with her arms spread.
"I'm jumping, Big Sister," Jun Zishu responded in a hushed voice.
[It's going to be exciting if you fall, Host.]
Nobody will think you're dead even if you don't speak up.
[Someone's coming; hurry up and jump.]
Jun Zishu stopped hesitating and jumped off the wall. Sure enough, Ning Qinghuan caught Jun Zishu firmly in her arms, just like she promised.
"Let's go, Little Wan'er."
After Ning Qinghuan let Jun Zishu down on her feet, the two of them held up their skirts and quickly scampered from the area.
"Come, your Big Sister will show you a good time," Ning Qinghuan said with a delighted smile as she patted the purse tied to her waist.
The western street was indeed in a lively state tonight. Lights decorated the street all around, and a joyful mood filled the air.
To avoid attracting attention, Ning Qinghuan had changed into clothes that allowed ease of movement for this occasion. Meanwhile, Jun Zishu had removed the hairpins and the other cumbersome objects from her body. After arriving at the western street, the two of them flexibly merged into the crowd and wandered from stall to stall.
"Look, Little Wan'er. It looks just like you," Ning Qinghuan said as she showed Jun Zishu a dough figurine. The figurine was something she had asked the figurine stall's owner to make based on her younger cousin's appearance.
"Mhm." Jun Zishu nodded. Then, she grabbed a fox mask from the nearby stall and put it on her face, asking, "Does this mask look good, Big Sister?"
"If you ask me..." Letting her words trail off, Ning Qinghuan removed the fox mask from Jun Zishu's face and replaced it with a rabbit mask. Then, she said, "This one looks better."
Jun Zishu's bright eyes looked like a good match with the rabbit mask.
"Not bad, not bad. Do you like it, Little Wan'er?"
Taking off the rabbit mask, Jun Zishu looked at it for a moment before revealing a disinterested expression. Then, her gaze returned to the fox mask.
Jun Zishu was no rabbit but a cunning fox instead.
"Do you prefer foxes?"
"Let's buy both, then. You can wear them in turns," Ning Qinghuan said as she paid the stall owner selling masks. She was adamant about having her little cousin wear the rabbit mask.
By the time the two girls had walked through the entire street, their hands were filled with items. However, the two of them still weren't satisfied, so they continued walking back to the street while eating some street food.
Then, all of a sudden, Little Fairy voiced a warning that caused Jun Zishu to pause.
[You're being followed by three grown men, Host. They don't seem to be coming at you with good intentions.]
Three grown men… After estimating the martial prowess of both sides, Jun Zishu concluded that she could only place her hopes on her cousin.
"Let's walk to that side, Big Sister. I sense that someone is following us," Jun Zishu whispered into Ning Qinghuan's ear.
Ning Qinghuan's body froze. However, she did not turn around and only nodded. Then, the two of them started making their way back into the crowd.
However, their stalkers seemed to have realized their intentions and started running after them. So, after briefly exchanging glances with each other, Ning Qinghuan and Jun Zishu dropped the items in their hands and started running as well.
[Hurry, Host. They're behind you already.]
Unfortunately, the two girls were too slow, and one of the three men quickly ran past them and blocked their escape path. The area they had wandered into was also deserted, so it was pointless to cry out for help.
While holding onto Jun Zishu's hand, Ning Qinghuan warily looked at the three men closing in on them and demanded, "Who are you people? What do you want?"
Even though Ning Qinghuan radiated an imposing aura, she was, after all, only a 13-year-old girl. No matter how fierce of an expression she made, she still looked like a child in the eyes of adults.
"Oh, what a fierce girl we have here. Both these girls are good-looking, Old Two. We'll be making a fortune this time."
Upon hearing these words, Jun Zishu instantly deduced what these men planned to do.
"You two little girls better know what's good for you. Either you obediently follow us, or we'll take you by force," one of the men said while cracking his knuckles.
"How dare you do such a thing under the emperor's eyes?! I am the daughter of the Northern General! You'll pay for your actions!"
"Oooh, a general's daughter? We're so scared~ Pfft, stop daydreaming! It's already nighttime! If your father is a general, would you be dressed like this and walking here by yourselves? Brothers, grab them!"
Ning Qinghuan might have learned martial arts, but she still wasn't strong enough to deal with three adult men by herself. Not to mention, she didn't bring any weapons with her tonight. So, Ning Qinghuan and Jun Zishu were eventually caught by the three men.
Before the men dragged them away, though, Jun Zishu pulled the jade pendant Ning Qinghuan had given her off of her neck and dropped it on the ground. The jade pendant had the Ning manor's symbol, so Jun Zishu hoped that someone would find it tomorrow and bring it to the Ning manor to ask for a reward.
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