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    Mu Nijing said, "Are you suggesting we spend our entire lives like this?"

    Upon hearing this, the two exchanged a knowing smile. Rong Shu didn't tease her further and instead laughed, saying, "Let's have our meal at Minglu Yard today. Mother has been eagerly waiting for your return."

    After finishing her lunch at Minglu Yard, Mu Nijing spent the afternoon chatting with Rong Shu before returning to the Duke of Guarding's residence.

    Mu Rong hadn't attended the banquet that day; he had stayed at home. Upon learning from his servants that the County Princess had returned, he hastily put aside a map and went outside to wait for her.

    From afar, Mu Nijing spotted him and waved, asking, "I'm going to see Grandmother. Would you like to come along, Brother?"

    Mu Rong glanced at her, a hint of helplessness in his eyes. "That jar of pear blossom white wine I buried in Datong Prefecture is yours."

    Only then did Mu Nijing halt her steps and smile. "Alright, Grandmother should be preparing for bed by now. I'll pay my respects to her tomorrow."

    She was always impulsive, and Old Lady Mu had always indulged her. Thus, she was never held to the strict standards expected of a typical noble lady. Not paying her respects at night wouldn't be a big issue.

    The siblings settled down in a pavilion within the courtyard. Mu Rong dismissed the attendants and looked at Mu Nijing. "Tell me, why did she divorce Censor Gu?"

    Mu Nijing tilted her head to study her brother, responding, "Why does it matter to you why Zhaozhao divorced him?"

    Mu Rong knew his sister was deliberately teasing him, so he chuckled and said, "They divorced after only half a year of marriage. There must be countless people in the capital guessing the reason behind their divorce. Yesterday at the banquet, I wanted to meet that Censor Gu, but unfortunately, I didn't run into him. That's why I came to ask you. If you don't want to tell me, then forget it. Anyway, I'll be visiting the Board of Censors to pay my respects to Minister Meng in a few days."

    Mu Nijing frowned. "There's no need for you to ask him. Zhaozhao said she simply lost interest. That Censor Gu has someone else in his heart; he wasn't truly willing to marry Zhaozhao from the start."

    Mu Rong glanced at her, took a sip of tea, and said nonchalantly, "You clearly told me before that Miss Rong was very fond of that Censor Gu."

    Mu Nijing shrugged. "Back then, she did like him. But who says one has to like someone forever? When a young lady decides a man isn't worth her affection, she can cut ties much more decisively than a man. Besides, if Zhaozhao had intended to like Gu Changjin for her entire life, there wouldn't have been a place for you in this story."

    Mu Rong almost choked on his tea, hurriedly lifting his sleeve to wipe the tea from the corners of his mouth.

    Mu Nijing smirked inwardly.

    When they first became friends, her brother had specially sent a letter from Da Tong warning her that Miss Rong's intentions might not have been pure when she approached Nijing. He had advised her not to easily trust others.

    So annoyed was she by his letter that she didn't even bother to reply. The following year, when he returned to the capital for his annual report, he insisted on pretending to be her guard and accompanying her to meet Zhaozhao. Mu Nijing was well aware of what her brother had been thinking back then. He had believed Zhaozhao had ulterior motives for befriending Nijing and thus wanted to investigate further.

    Well, this "investigation" had stirred up the Red Matchmaker Star.

    Mu Nijing patted his shoulder and said, "Brother was too late once, don't let it happen again. Learn from me. If you like someone, claim them first. Whether I live or die in the future is beside the point. At least the world will know that man was once claimed by Danzhu County Princess. Remember to put your best foot forward when Zhaozhao visits the General's Manor in a few days. You may not be as handsome as Censor Gu, but you can make up for it in other ways. Do you understand?"

    At the age of thirteen, Mu Nijing took a liking to Cui Si, son of Cui Anzhi, the Governor of Datong Prefecture, and promptly had her father arrange their betrothal through a formal visit to the Cui household.

    Cui Si was a scholarly gentleman, with a face as delicate as jade. It was unforeseen by the Mu family's assembly of generals that Mu Nijing would take a fancy to him.

    After all, she was the only daughter of the Mu family. Her uncles and elder brothers, fearing that Mu Nijing might be deceived, stormed into the Cui residence with swords drawn, their auras fiercely intimidating. Fortunately, Cui Si proved to be no coward; he remained composed even under the intense scrutiny of the crowd.

    Holding a scroll of book under the cypress tree, I inquired about their business with a gentle demeanor.

    Later, my father went to propose marriage. The Cui family agreed but mentioned that although Cui Si is the son of a high-ranking provincial governor, he has no scholarly achievements to his name. His uncles insisted that Cui Si should first attain some academic accolades before he could properly wed Mu Nijing.

    At that time, Mu Rong was still a student at the Imperial Academy, and upon hearing this matter, he could do nothing but laugh and cry in exasperation. Little did anyone expect that those very words would prevent Nijing from marrying until this day.

    Cui Si was an indifferent person, possessing great talent yet refusing to pursue a career in the bureaucracy. To this day, he remains an ordinary man without official rank.

    Last year, Mu Rong had intended for Cui Si to make the formal proposal. However, Nijing insisted that her uncles' previous words could not be taken lightly and demanded that Cui Si first attain a scholarly achievement before seeking her hand in marriage.

    If Cui Si truly aspired to pursue an official title, he would have done so long ago. Nijing's stance was merely a way to test his sincerity.

    She would only allow him to propose when he genuinely wished to marry her.

    Mu Rong choked on his own words, yet he had to admit that Nijing was indeed more daring when it came to matters of the heart.

    "I see, this time I won't hesitate," he said with a smile. "Otherwise, I'll be the butt of your jokes for the rest of my life."

    Mujing pursed her lips and smiled. "Zhaozhao mentioned that she plans to open a horse ranch in Da Tong in the future. Brother, if you don't seize this opportunity, you'll be laughed at by me for the rest of your days."

    Not long after the Dragon Boat Festival, Mujing sent someone to Minglu Yard to fetch Rong Shu.

    "Fallen Smoke and Green Garden were on a mission earlier and just returned today. I'll introduce you to them," she said.

    Mujing commanded a hundred personal soldiers, and most of them were women. Among them, Fallen Smoke and Green Garden were the most capable by her side.

    Fallen Smoke was tall and slender, with an extremely calm demeanor. Green Garden, on the other hand, had a baby face and could easily put others at ease with her smile.

    Both bowed respectfully to Rong Shu.

    Mujing explained, "You won't regret serving Miss Rong. She's a golden goose for our county princess. During the time you serve under her, your monthly salary will likely be twice what I pay you."

    Rong Shu laughed softly. "Are you worried that I might shorten their monthly allowances?"

    Amidst laughter and conversation, they entered Lady Mu's courtyard. Lady Mu held a status in the capital not inferior to that of the elderly marquis in the Duke Ying's residence; she was also a highly respected lady with an honorary title for her virtue.

    Unlike Elder Lady Mu, who was fond of hosting and attending banquets, the elderly Marquise preferred seclusion. In her daily life, she enjoyed practicing martial arts at home, which kept her body agile and strong.

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