After resting for a few days, Jun Zishu was finally able to get out of bed.
Meanwhile, Ning Qinghuan treated Jun Zishu like a fragile object the past few days, providing attentive care to her cousin.
"I already chose your clothes for you, Little Sister Wan'er. Here, wear this set for today," Ning Qinghuan said as she placed the set of clothing she chose in front of Jun Zishu.
Jun Zishu obediently nodded.
"Come, Little Sister Wan'er. Be careful when you climb out of bed. Let's go outside and get some sunshine."
After Jun Zishu changed her clothes, Ning Qinghuan extended a hand to her.
Jun Zishu nodded again before holding onto Ning Qinghuan's hand and following the girl out of the room.
Jun Zishu felt as if she had become Ning Qinghuan's life-sized doll with how much care the girl provided for her these days.
"You'll feel better if you bask in the sun. It's a little windy, though. Will you be alright with that? Do you have a headache?" Ning Qinghuan tentatively asked after taking a seat beside Jun Zishu.
"I'm fine, Big Sister. I'm almost fully recovered already," Jun Zishu said, shaking her head and smiling.
"You look so skinny. You should eat more and move more; it'll help strengthen your body."
"Mhm, I'll do what Big Sister says."
Jun Zishu revealed a sweet smile as she obediently complied with all of Ning Qinghuan's instructions.
[...For some inexplicable reason, I can't help but feel scared when I see this scene.]
Little Fairy fell silent for a moment. Then, her childlike voice suddenly rang out again cheerfully.
[Your current appearance is so cute and lovely, Host! You're also beautiful and...and...smart!]
In short, Little Fairy voiced out a bunch of uncultured flattery.
I feel like hitting someone after listening to your flattery.
[I-I'll stop speaking! I'll stop speaking! Continue with what you're doing, Host!]
After the noise in her mind settled, Jun Zishu leaned a little closer to Ning Qinghuan as she comfortably basked in the sun.
Didn't you say you weren't going to talk?
[Erm… I have to say this one. The male lead and his entourage are coming. They're right outside the manor's entrance.]
Jun Zishu sat upright, the power structure of the current empire appearing in her mind.
The country she currently resided in was called the Ying Tian Empire, and the reigning emperor was still in his prime. However, the emperor did not have many children, only three sons and three daughters.
The first prince was both the eldest son and the crown prince, and coming after him was the second princess, third princess, fourth prince, fifth prince, and sixth princess.
By the looks of things, the crown prince would be able to succeed the throne so long as he didn't do anything stupid.
Unfortunately, since the fifth prince was the protagonist of this world, the crown prince was fated to meet a tragic end.
Jun Zishu disliked the fifth prince, and she did not wish for Ning Qinghuan to get close to the fifth prince. She also didn't wish for the Ning family to stand on the fifth prince's side, becoming a strong support for him in the future.
Jun Zishu also didn't hope for the Ning family to attach themselves to the crown prince. The crown prince's abilities were subpar, and he would even occasionally take foolish actions.
Rather than the crown prince and the fifth prince, Jun Zishu had set her sights on the fourth prince instead. Although the fourth prince was a crafty person, he had the cruelty and ability needed from an emperor. The only problem was that he lacked luck in his life.
After much deliberation, Jun Zishu felt that if Ning Qinghuan must be wed into the royal family, wedding her to the fourth prince would be a good idea.
According to the original plotline, the fourth prince had contracted a virus from a pandemic shortly after getting injured during a bandit hunt. And as he failed to receive treatment in time, he died before he even managed to return to the capital.
Like so, the fifth prince managed to rid himself of a strong rival without even lifting a finger.
However, if Jun Zishu could change the fourth prince's fate, he could compete against the fifth prince for the throne. At that time, without the Ning family's support, it would become even more difficult for the fifth prince to ascend to the throne.
The corners of Jun Zishu's mouth lifted slightly as the outline of a plan started forming in her mind.
At this time, Shaoyao approached the small pavilion Jun Zishu and Ning Qinghuan rested in and stopped outside. Then, she reported, "Young Miss, the fifth prince and his entourage have come to invite you to an outing. They are currently waiting in the manor."
If Ning Qinghuan were to accept the fifth prince's invitation, Jun Zishu would also have to follow her. However, Jun Zishu's body had yet to fully recover, so she couldn't leave the manor.
What could Jun Zishu do about this situation, then? The answer was simple—get Ning Qinghuan to reject the invitation.
A smile appeared on Ning Qinghuan's face when she heard her head maid's words. Since her friends had invited her out to play, she naturally had to go with them.
However, as soon as Ning Qinghuan stood up, a soft little hand grabbed her hand.
"Will you be going out, Big Sister?"
Ning Qinghuan hesitated. When she looked at her cousin's complexion, it was evident that the girl couldn't go out and run about. Doing so would only worsen her condition.
Yet, Ning Qinghuan had a hard time resisting the temptation of her friends' invitation.
"You should go then, Big Sister. It's a pity that I can't go with you," Jun Zishu said as she lowered her head in disappointment. Then, after releasing Ning Qinghuan's hand, Jun Zishu continued, "Make sure to have fun, Big Sister. That way, you can tell me some interesting stories when you come back."
After saying so, Jun Zishu looked up at Ning Qinghuan and smiled brightly.
Ning Qinghuan immediately felt her heart melt. Even though her younger cousin was clearly in a low mood, the girl had still forced herself to cheer up and smile.
"Actually… Actually… I don't want Big Sister to go out; I want Big Sister to stay at home with me. But I know I cannot be so selfish," Jun Zishu said, biting her lower lip and revealing a sad look.
"It's okay. Isn't it just an outing? I can do that on any other day. We'll go out and play once your body gets better. I'll stay at home with you today," Ning Qinghuan said, rubbing Jun Zishu's sullen face with her hands. Then, she stepped out of the pavilion and continued, "I'll be right back; I need to tell them that I won't be joining them today."
[What a perfect act!]
Little Fairy applauded.
You flatter me.
[But, Host, what if she just leaves with her friends like this?]
I'll show her an on-demand fainting act.
Ning Qinghuan was a stubborn person who yielded to soft approaches but rejected forceful approaches. If someone tried to be stubborn with her, she would react even more stubbornly. Only by softly pleading to her could Jun Zishu render Ning Qinghuan helpless.
Jun Zishu diligently played out her "delicate girl" act. Although Ning Qinghuan disliked delicate girls the most, such girls were the best weapons to restrain her tough personality in some respects.
"Your cousin is sick, so you're not coming to play with us?"
The fifth prince looked at Ning Qinghuan in confusion. Setting aside the fact that Ning Qinghuan had suddenly gained a cousin in her house, Ning Qinghuan wasn't the type of person who could patiently take care of others.
"Mhm, let's make an appointment on another day," Ning Qinghuan said. When she saw Pei Xiuyun's figure among the group, she became even more resolute not to join the fifth prince's group on their outing today. She wanted nothing to do with that troublesome girl.
"Can't you have the maids take care of her? It's not like your manor is lacking in servants," a boy in a brocade said unhappily. He was the son of the Minister of Rites, and he shared a good relationship with Ning Qinghuan.
"I want to care for her myself. Let's go out on another day."
"Who is this cousin of yours for you to treat her so preciously? Let us meet her."
"She just recovered from a serious illness, so it isn't convenient for her to walk around. I'll bring her with me when we go out and play next time."
"Alright, then. Where did she come from? I never heard about you having a cousin before."
"She came from a different city. Bandits attacked her house, and her family perished. When I bring her out to play next time, you guys better not ask her about her parents."
"Is that so. Got it."
When the group heard that the other party was a lone girl, they quickly lost interest and stopped asking questions.
"Big Sister Qinghuan, you really are a kind person," Pei Xiuyun said with a smile, her voice sounding soft and pleasant.
However, Ning Qinghuan only responded with a perfunctory smile.
Ning Qinghuan disliked Pei Xiuyun a lot. However, as Pei Xiuyun was part of the fifth prince's group, Ning Qinghuan couldn't openly ridicule the girl for her delicate and hypocritical behavior. Otherwise, both the members of the fifth prince's group and the adults would criticize her. Hence, she only kept a superficial attitude toward Pei Xiuyun, and only those close to her knew that she disliked Pei Xiuyun.
After Ning Qinghuan sent away the group of boys and girls, she returned to the pavilion in her courtyard.
Jun Zishu remained quietly seated in the pavilion as she waited for Ning Qinghuan to return. When she saw Ning Qinghuan coming back, she promptly stood up, hints of joy surfacing on her face.
Ning Qinghuan's mood lightened up a little when she saw her cousin's face, the gloom on her face disappearing.
"I'm back, Little Sister Wan'er."
"Thank you for accompanying me, Big Sister."
"I'm the one who should be thanking you instead. I saw Pei Xiuyun in the group just now. I'd be adding trouble for myself if I agreed to the outing," Ning Qinghuan said, rolling her eyes. Then, she sat down beside Jun Zishu and continued basking in the sun.
Jun Zishu nodded her head, feigning ignorance. In her mind, though, she was thinking about Pei Xiuyun.
Pei Xiuyun was the daughter of Concubine Xian, the fifth prince's birth mother's younger sister. Concubine Xian had brought Pei Xiuyun to her side when the girl was ten years old.
Concubine Xian didn't intend for Pei Xiuyun to marry the fifth prince. Instead, she planned for the girl to win over others. If Pei Xiuyun could attract the heart of someone influential and marry him, then this person would naturally have to stand on the fifth prince's side.
Of course, if Pei Xiuyun wanted to marry the fifth prince, Concubine Xian would also allow it. However, Concubine Xian would never allow her to become the fifth prince's primary consort as she had reserved the position for Ning Qinghuan.
As luck would have it, Pei Xiuyun liked the fifth prince. She also understood that she couldn't bring much help to the fifth prince unless she married someone else and brought them to his side. However, she absolutely refused to marry someone else, so she had long since prepared herself to become the secondary consort or a concubine. For this reason, she hated Ning Qinghuan, who was able to become the fifth prince's primary consort.
Meanwhile, although the fifth prince liked Pei Xiuyun and had many opinions about Ning Qinghuan, he wasn't so foolish as to refuse to marry Ning Qinghuan. At most, he would treat it as a political marriage without feelings.
In Jun Zishu's opinion, the only unfortunate part about Pei Xiuyun and the fifth prince was that these two children hadn't died yet.
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