"Sure, but you must promise to take care of me for the rest of your life," Jun Zishu cooperatively said. She even coquettishly covered her smile with a handkerchief.
"Of course. How could I bear to make such a beauty suffer?"
Ning Qinghuan lowered her sword and switched to using her finger to holding up Jun Zishu's chin. Then, she moved her face closer to Jun Zishu, their faces so close that they could hear each other's breaths.
When Ning Qinghuan looked at the cherry-colored lips in front of her, her mind momentarily became dazed.
Meanwhile, Jun Zishu only felt that they were too close to each other. She also found the situation a little strange. Even so, she still cooperated with Ning Qinghuan's act and smiled at her cousin.
A moment later, Ning Qinghuan released Jun Zishu's chin, turned around, and said, "Alright, let's stop joking. I'll go take a bath first."
Jun Zishu nodded. She inwardly let out a sigh of relief when she sensed the strange atmosphere disappearing.
Meanwhile, Ning Qinghuan left in an almost frantic manner. She dared not let Jun Zishu see the current expression on her face.
Ning Qinghuan felt as if she was close to losing her mind, and her face was boiling right now.
Just now, when their faces were placed so close to each other, and Ning Qinghuan's eyes caught sight of Jun Zishu's lips, the desire to kiss those lips suddenly appeared in her mind. Fortunately, she had snapped out of her daze and withdrew her body in time. Had she carried out her thoughts, she wouldn't know how she was supposed to salvage the situation.
Ning Qinghuan made her way back to her room while covering her blushing face. She also repeatedly questioned herself why she would suddenly have such preposterous thoughts.
At the same time, Ning Qinghuan couldn't help but wonder what kind of reaction her little cousin would make had she gone through with the kiss.
Would her cousin push her away and look at her with a shocked gaze? Would her cousin fall into a daze and look at her with watery eyes? Or would her cousin indulge her actions, just like how the girl had always indulged and accepted whatever she did in the past?
I must be losing my mind.
Ning Qinghuan hastened her footsteps. She suddenly found that she didn't know how she should face Jun Zishu. The situation had gotten so bad that she had actively avoided Jun Zishu for the next two days.
Jun Zishu was also stunned by this situation. She didn't know why her cousin had suddenly started ignoring and avoiding her. Even when they slept together at night, Ning Qinghuan did not embrace her like she always did. Instead, Ning Qinghuan slept with her back against Jun Zishu, her actions giving off a sense of alienation and indifference.
Did she find out the things I'm doing in secret?
[I already looked into it, but the mission target has shown no signs of having noticed the things you are doing in secret.]
Little Fairy answered in a determined tone. She observed Ning Qinghuan's actions 24/7, and she did not see anyone revealing Jun Zishu's secrets to Ning Qinghuan. It also didn't seem like Ning Qinghuan had noticed anything wrong.
What's up with this situation, then? Did I do something to upset her? But that shouldn't be possible. Then, is she in her rebellious phase? Is she trying to keep secrets from her close friend?
Apart from this explanation, Jun Zishu couldn't come up with any other explanation for Ning Qinghuan's strange behavior.
Little Fairy couldn't help but feel useless since she couldn't answer any of her host's questions. She also wondered why interactions between humans were so complicated.
Jun Zishu stood by the bed as she undressed. When she saw Ning Qinghuan's back facing her, she started growing a little angry. No matter the cause, Ning Qinghuan should at least tell her the reason why she was mad at her. Not to mention, having the little cousin she had been nurturing for the past two years suddenly turn on her was a very irritating matter.
"If you no longer wish to share a bed with me, you don't need to use such a discreet way to tell it to me, Big Sister. I will go back to my room and sleep."
After saying so, Jun Zishu stopped undressing and started putting them back on instead.
"Huh? I never said that…"
Ning Qinghuan stopped pretending to be asleep when she heard Jun Zishu's words. Then, she immediately turned around and jumped off the bed.
How could Ning Qinghuan possibly hate Jun Zishu? She was merely afraid of herself.
Ning Qinghuan was afraid that she couldn't control herself. Ever since those thoughts appeared in her mind that day, they had taken root in her mind. Ning Qinghuan wasn't sure what was going on with her. Whenever she spoke to, looked at, or embraced Jun Zishu, thoughts of kissing her cousin would immediately appear in her mind. This situation made her feel like some sort of pervert.
"Why are you ignoring me, then? Why avoid me?" Jun Zishu aggrievedly asked.
At this time, Ning Qinghuan realized that her behavior might have created a huge misunderstanding. Hurriedly, she made up an excuse and explained herself, "I was just in a bad mood these past few days. I'm not avoiding you on purpose. When I think about how I am going to perform in front of so many people tomorrow, I can't help but grow nervous."
Ning Qinghuan's face had turned bright red as she spoke, giving off the illusion that she was nervous.
Jun Zishu wore a look of skepticism on her face. She never knew that Ning Qinghuan was a person who got nervous and stage fright so easily.
"Really, really. Quickly come over, and let's sleep."
Ning Qinghuan repeatedly nodded. She spurned her dirty thoughts and worried that Jun Zishu would find out about them. However, compared to not sleeping together with Jun Zishu, she would rather take the risk of Jun Zishu finding out that she was a pervert.
Ning Qinghuan had already gotten used to having Jun Zishu accompanying her in her sleep. Moreover, it served as proof of their intimacy.
Jun Zishu reluctantly believed Ning Qinghuan's excuse and continued undressing before climbing into bed.
Ning Qinghuan happily embraced Jun Zishu and even rubbed her face against Jun Zishu's. After holding back for two days, she finally got to experience the familiar smell and warmth.
In response, Jun Zishu gently caressed Ning Qinghuan's ruffled hair, and the two slept together like two good sisters once more.
After this little episode, Ning Qinghuan decided to stop torturing herself. This was because she had already come up with a solution.
Since she worried that Jun Zishu would find out about her thoughts, wouldn't everything be fine so long as she didn't let Jun Zishu find out about them?
It was a perfect plan.
Everyone affiliated with the imperial palace placed significant importance on the empress's 60th birthday. Jun Zishu lacked status, so she wasn't qualified to participate in the birthday banquet.
Jun Zishu knew about this point. She didn't wish to participate in the banquet, either. Hence, she obediently saw off Ning Qinghuan and cheered for her cousin.
"Make sure to eat well while I'm gone. You can also go ahead and sleep first if you happen to get tired before I get home."
Ning Qinghuan gave Jun Zishu a bunch of instructions before she left, to which Jun Zishu nodded to all of them.
Shaoyao, who was watching the two from the side, couldn't help but sigh and think to herself, You are only leaving for a banquet, not a trip that lasts for months, Young Miss. Is there a need to give so many detailed instructions? Also, how old do you think Miss Cousin is? How can she not know how to take care of herself at her age?
While the people in the palace were singing and dancing, Jun Zishu laid on her bed and watched a comedy movie with Little Fairy.
After spending many days together with Little Fairy, Jun Zishu finally uncovered another one of her system's abilities—the ability to let her watch movies to relieve boredom.
After tasking Little Fairy to keep an eye on Ning Qinghuan, Jun Zishu happily immersed herself in the comedy movie.
[It's the mission target's turn to perform now, Host.]
Switch to that side, then. The movie's about to end, anyway.
Ning Qinghuan agilely performed her sword dance in the banquet hall, the musicians performing on the side creating a more elegant atmosphere.
While Ning Qinghuan was immersed in her performance, a young man holding a flute suddenly stood up and joined the musicians' performance. Along with the flutist's addition, Ning Qinghuan's movements became faster and faster.
Jun Zishu took notice of the flutist. He was a young man who gave off the impression of a scholar.
Who's that, Little Fairy?
[Let me see... It's the Minister of Revenue's third son.]
Is he the main wife's? Or a concubine's?
[The main wife's]
Is he married?
[Not yet. He doesn't have any concubines, either. He only has a maid that warms his bed.]
Jun Zishu frowned. However, she quickly relaxed her eyebrows. Although she felt that Ning Qinghuan deserved better, there was probably no one cleaner than this young man among the noble children in the capital.
The scene in the banquet hall continued playing in Jun Zishu's mind, and Ning Qinghuan and the flutist looked like a good match for each other.
Jun Zishu stroked her chin in thought. She felt that a relationship between the two youngsters might be possible.
After Ning Qinghuan finished her performance, she nodded in gratitude to the Minister of Revenue's third son. Then, after accepting the empress's compliment, she returned to her seat.
Feeling a little tired, Jun Zishu let out a yawn and stopped spectating the banquet.
[I'll be resting for an hour, Host. I'll notify you if something happens.]
Little Fairy needed to rest for one hour every week to keep herself at peak performance. Moreover, Little Fairy had already placed a mark on Ning Qinghuan. So long as Ning Qinghuan came into contact with anyone who had contributed to her original tragic fate, Little Fairy would immediately find out about it. And in the event of such a situation occurring, Little Fairy would wake up even if she was asleep.
Thus, Jun Zishu felt assured to let Little Fairy rest. Since Little Fairy would know so long as the fifth prince or someone like Pei Xiuyun made contact with Ning Qinghuan, there was no harm in letting the little fellow rest.
While Jun Zishu was getting ready for bed, Ning Qinghuan was still stuck in the banquet hall.
After concluding her performance, Ning Qinghuan decided to go change her clothes. She had danced a little too enthusiastically just now. Adding on to the fact that it was currently the start of summer, she was now drenched in sweat.
After bathing and changing into a new set of clothes, Ning Qinghuan said to the court ladies behind her, "You don't need to follow me. I can get back to the banquet hall by myself."
In response, the court ladies politely bowed to Ning Qinghuan and stepped back.
Ning Qinghuan did not wish to return to the banquet hall too quickly. The hall was noisy and stuffy. Moreover, she was feeling a little lightheaded after taking a bath.
After enjoying the evening breeze for a while, Ning Qinghuan decided to head back. However, before she could do so, she suddenly heard a short scream entering her ears.
"Is the manager not here?"
"Don't worry. Everyone is busy tonight, so no one will notice us here."
The voices came from two court ladies. Growing a little curious, Ning Qinghuan hid in a corner and listened in on their conversation. She wondered why two court ladies were behaving so sneakily in this dark and windy night.
"Let's go and return quickly, then, lest the manager notices we are missing."
The two court ladies walked past Ning Qinghuan's hiding spot and left for another location. After hesitating for a moment, Ning Qinghuan held up her skirt and quietly followed the two.
Ning Qinghuan had trained in martial arts, so she was more than capable of following two untrained women without getting noticed. While following the court ladies, Ning Qinghuan memorized the route she took.
After reaching a remote side chamber, the two court ladies quickly went inside.
What are they doing here?
Ignoring the hindrance of her clothing, Ning Qinghuan jumped across a wall and landed inside the chamber's courtyard. Then, Ning Qinghuan approached the bed-chamber, poked a hole through one of the paper windows, and peeked through it.
Originally, Ning Qinghuan thought that the two planned to do something nefarious such as poisoning an important person in the palace. However, the two court ladies did nothing of the sort. Instead, as soon as they closed the doors to the bed-chamber, they eagerly started embracing and kissing each other.
Ning Qinghuan gasped and widened her eyes in shock.
In the meantime, the two court ladies reluctantly separated after a long kiss. Then, they immediately began entangling their bodies with each other once more. The two also whispered words of love and unspeakable thoughts to each other during the entire process.
As the two stuck closer and closer to each other, they began undressing each other.
At this point, Ning Qinghuan decided to stop watching and slowly retreat from the chamber. Then, she quickly jumped out of the courtyard and made her way to the banquet hall.
After seeing Ning Qinghuan returning to her seat, Madam Ning quietly asked, "What took you so long?"
However, Ning Qinghuan only responded with a perfunctory smile and said nothing.
As the performance in the banquet hall continued, Ning Qinghuan lowered her head, her mind preoccupied with something else.
Pantsu Hero Alice (PHA)
Reincarnation of the Strongest Sword God (Side Stories)
After Being Bent By Reader (ABBR)(GL)