Jun Zishu moved her body a little in an attempt to shake off the hand resting on her body. However, in doing so, not only did she fail to shake off the hand, but she had even caused it to slip into someplace that shouldn't be touched.
Because of the summer heat, Jun Zishu only wore a thin dress before going to bed. Even the dudou she wore was thinner than usual.
Meanwhile, Ning Qinghuan's hand just so happened to have slipped down to Jun Zishu's breasts, the warmth of her hand penetrating through the two thin layers of fabric and reaching Jun Zishu's skin.
Jun Zishu found the experience to be strange. She also felt taken advantage of. Immediately, she sat up on the bed and woke up Ning Qinghuan.
"It's time to wake up, Big Sister."
Jun Zishu gently pushed the person sleeping next to her.
Ning Qinghuan dazedly muttered something in response. Then, she reluctantly rubbed her eyes and yawned.
After seeing that Ning Qinghuan was awake, Jun Zishu said, "I'll go have Shaoyao prepare the bath for us."
It was common for them to bathe several times a day during the hot summer season. Baths after waking up and before sleep were especially important. Although they would quickly start sweating again, it was better than starting or ending their days in an uncomfortable and sweaty state.
After Jun Zishu left the room, Ning Qinghuan clenched her left hand, seemingly trying to recall the sensation she felt before.
They were things both of them had. Yet, Ning Qinghuan found that even though she had no interest in her own breasts, she was exceptionally interested in Jun Zishu's.
Then, when Ning Qinghuan remembered that she could boldly share a bath with her cousin in a moment, a smile appeared on her face.
Whenever Jun Zishu and Ning Qinghuan shared a bath, there would inevitably be a period of honesty between them. During this period, Jun Zishu couldn't help but find growth to be a mysterious thing.
One year ago, Jun Zishu remembered that Ning Qinghuan was superior in the breasts and height department. After a year had passed, Ning Qinghuan had grown even taller than Jun Zishu, but her breasts remained the same. Jun Zishu's breasts, on the other hand, had swelled up significantly.
Now, whenever the two shared a bath, a situation where A met C would ensue.
Also, to Jun Zishu's confusion, Ning Qinghuan seemed especially attracted to her breasts today. She could feel her cousin's scorching gaze constantly stuck to her chest.
Jun Zishu let out a cough as she covered her front with an arm.
"Why is there such a huge difference in size?" Ning Qinghuan said with a contemplative look. Then, with lightning speed, she reached for one of the white bunnies with her hand.
"Wow, it's so soft," Ning Qinghuan exclaimed.
Jun Zishu thought that Ning Qinghuan was only messing with her, so she let out a giggle and quickly twisted her body, preventing Ning Qinghuan from touching her any further.
Ning Qinghuan put on a nonchalant expression on the surface. Inwardly, though, her heart fluttered with joy.
This was the benefit of interacting with someone of the same gender. Her little cousin wasn't on guard against her at all. There was no way that Jun Zishu would think that the person closest to her would have those kinds of thoughts.
After the two messed around in the water for a while longer, their bath concluded with Ning Qinghuan winning by pressing down Jun Zishu.
Then, after getting out of the bath and having breakfast, the two began studying.
Although most people in the empire advocated that ignorance was a virtue for women, that wasn't completely true. People still hoped for women to be proficient in cultural arts such as embroidery, music, and art. They just didn't want women to know too much.
However, it was a different story in the Ning manor. General Ning and Madam Ning required Ning Qinghuan to be literate. They hoped that she could read as many books as possible. Though, rather than reading books such as Lessons for Women like Madam Ning hoped, Ning Qinghuan preferred reading her father's books on war.
Jun Zishu, on the other hand, preferred reading travel notes and the like to broaden her knowledge of the world.
Not much was prepared for lunch since neither Ning Qinghuan nor Jun Zishu had a big appetite. Jun Zishu originally possessed a small appetite already. Because of the summer heat, her appetite shrank even further. Now, she would feel full after having half a bowl of rice and a few bites of the main dishes. She ate so little that Ning Qinghuan had the urge to stuff more food into her bowl.
After lunch, Ning Qinghuan and Jun Zishu rested under the courtyard pavilion with two maids fanning them and Shaoyao serving them mung bean soup. At this time, Jun Zishu couldn't help but miss the air conditioning on Earth.
"Summer is so annoying," Jun Zishu complained as she wiped the sweat on her forehead.
"It's not all bad," Ning Qinghuan said in a meaningful tone. She had initially wanted to agree with Jun Zishu's complaint. However, when she saw Jun Zishu's exposed collarbone and cleavage, she felt that the summer heat might not be bad after all.
"Hm?" Jun Zishu was confused by Ning Qinghuan's words.
However, Ning Qinghuan simply smiled and remained quiet as she drank her mung bean soup.
As everyone expected, now that Ning Qinghuan had turned 15, many people had started setting their sights on her.
While General Ning had a headache over his daughter's marriage, the emperor summoned General Ning to his study. The abrupt summons gave General Ning a bad feeling.
"Have you decided which house you plan to betroth your daughter to, General Ning?"
"Your Majesty, my daughter has a stubborn personality and has yet to grow up. A few days ago, she even said she wanted to stay at home to accompany me and my wife. As for her marriage...she says she hasn't considered it yet."
"How filial of her. However, a grown girl can't be kept at home."
General Ning dryly laughed at the emperor's comment, his confidence waning. Right now, the thing he feared most was for the emperor to ask for him to betroth his daughter to the fifth prince. If that happened, not only would his daughter have to marry a person she disliked, but he would also have to reconsider the fifth prince's position in the emperor's heart. Depending on his findings, he would have to reconsider which faction he sided with.
General Ning might be an expert when it came to war, but he would be troubled if he had to figure out the emperor's thoughts.
"I understand. My wife is also busy choosing a good son-in-law. The other party's status isn't important. What's most important is that the other person treats my daughter well."
After racking his mind, General Ning decided to play dumb for the moment and take on the role of a father who spoiled his daughter.
General Ning had never once thought of using his daughter as a tool. To him, his daughter's happiness was of the utmost importance. He would never behave like other people who used their daughters as a political chess piece.
"In that case, you best decide quickly, General Ning. Like you said, status isn't important," the emperor said in a meaningful tone.
General Ning was momentarily surprised when he heard the emperor's words. Then, he hurriedly nodded and left the room.
The meaning the emperor tried to convey with his words was obvious—the emperor did not wish to see Ning Qinghuan marry the fifth prince, either. In that case, it meant that the emperor favored his two other sons instead.
After Little Fairy relayed the conversation between the emperor and General Ning to Jun Zishu, Jun Zishu breathed out a sigh of relief. Now, she no longer needed to worry about any possibilities of Ning Qinghuan marrying the fifth prince.
However, Jun Zishu wasn't free of all her worries yet since the emperor had implied that Ning Qinghuan needed to marry someone.
According to Jun Zishu's guess, once General Ning returned to the manor, he would probably call Ning Qinghuan to see him.
Sure enough, just like Jun Zishu expected, the manor's head steward visited their room shortly after General Ning returned to the manor.
"Huh? Why is Daddy looking for me at this time?" Ning Qinghuan wondered. Then, she looked toward Jun Zishu and said, "I'll head out for a moment, Little Wan'er."
"Mhm, go ahead, Big Sister."
Inside the Ning manor's study, General Ning wore a gloomy look on his face as he looked at his daughter.
"What's wrong, Daddy? Why the long face?"
"His Majesty summoned me today and asked me about your marriage."
"I'm not marrying anybody," Ning Qinghuan subconsciously responded.
"I know you don't have any plans for that right now, but we really cannot delay it anymore. You are already close to reaching the appropriate age. His Majesty has even deliberately brought up this matter. Do you have anybody you like, Daughter?"
Ning Qinghuan hesitated for a moment before shaking her head.
"Hah… What to do… I definitely won't agree to a reckless marriage, but I'm also worried that His Majesty would personally betroth someone to you. The position for the fifth prince's imperial consort is still vacant as well."
"Ha? So what if it's vacant? What does it have to do with me? I'd rather marry some random person than marry him. You want me to live together with Pei Xiuyun? You might as well kill me now," Ning Qinghuan said contemptuously.
"I know. I won't ever let you marry him. Moreover, His Majesty has no such intentions, either. But it still doesn't change the fact that you need to marry someone."
"Can't I not marry? I don't wish to get married."
The person she liked was currently staying by her side every day. They even slept in the same bed every night. Ning Qinghuan was already satisfied with this situation for the moment.
"Nonsense. How can you not marry?"
"I just don't want to get married right now."
"What do you think of the Minister of Revenue's third son? He's the one who performed with you during the banquet that day. You two looked quite matching. Also, that kid looks easy to handle. He doesn't look like a bad person, either."
"Him? Forget it. I don't have any feelings for him, Dad. He looks so weak."
Ning Qinghuan had initially thought to roll her eyes and say that she didn't like such a person. However, when she thought about how her beloved was also a frail person, she quickly swallowed those words back into her stomach.
Rather than weak and flimsy men, Ning Qinghuan admired manly men like her father and elder brother. As for women…her Little Wan'er was the cutest and most lovable woman ever!
"Let's set this matter aside for now. I'll discuss it with your mother afterward."
Ning Qinghuan still wasn't ready to confess who she liked. She felt that if she did that, her parents would try to marry her off as soon as possible. And if that didn't work, they might try to marry off her Little Wan'er instead. Thus, Ning Qinghuan decided to wait for now.
Ning Qinghuan looked to be in a bad mood when she returned to her bedroom.
When Jun Zishu saw Ning Qinghuan sitting down beside her, even though she already knew what was annoying Ning Qinghuan, she still put on a worried look and asked, "What's wrong, Big Sister?"
Ning Qinghuan hesitated to speak as she looked at Jun Zishu. Then, she let out a helpless sigh.
Ning Qinghuan honestly didn't know what she should do right now. She realized that she didn't have any ways to resist her fate at all. Although she could keep Jun Zishu by her side even after marrying someone, she still felt reluctant to do so.
"Dad is rushing me to marry, Little Wan'er."
"Huh? What kind of person is the other party?"
"I don't know yet. Dad still hasn't decided. What kind of person do you hope for me to marry?"
"Anyone is fine so long as you like him, Big Sister. However, he must be a kind person. It'd be best if he is loyal as well."
Ning Qinghuan's marriage partner didn't have to come from an influential family. Jun Zishu only hoped Ning Qinghuan could be happy.
When Ning Qinghuan heard Jun Zishu's reply and saw her little cousin's sincere expression, she couldn't help but let out another long sigh.
Ning Qinghuan originally thought that she would have to continue suffering through this tormenting situation until the day she had no choice but to retaliate. However, she never thought that an opportunity to turn things around would suddenly present itself.
It was already autumn when the opportunity in question arrived. The weather had turned cold, and the enemies in the north suddenly invaded. When the urgent report reached the imperial court, the emperor exploded with fury.
General Ning took the initiative and volunteered himself to head to the frontlines and reinforce his son. In response, the emperor gladly agreed.
On the same night, Ning Qinghuan made her way to the study and knelt before her father.
"I want to go with you, Dad."
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