5 When Did the Fourth Miss Learn How to Draw?

    Although Yujia was certainly determined enough to talk to the Old Master of the Yang Household about breaking the betrothal between her and the Yu family, things just never played out like how she imagined.

    She didn't even need to take a step out of her room before she realized that there was virtually no way that she could manage to convince the Old Master to end the engagement. To start things off, if talking would've done it, no matter how excellent Yujia was at persuasion, then the old Yang Yujia would've likely thought and tried doing it before she decided to resort to alcohol. This was clearly a situation that Yujia couldn't talk her way out of.

    Secondly, based on what Hui'er said, this marriage was probably what other people considered as acceptable. There were no reasons for Yujia to not marry the old master of the Yu family. She was the fourth illegitimate child in the Yang family, and for someone like her, the best position she could possibly get would be a concubine to some man. Others might even consider her lucky that someone as wealthy as the Yu family's old master was willing to take Yujia.

    Yujia's lips twisted at the thought, and she clutched her head in frustration. As someone who transmigrated from a society with much more modern beliefs, Yujia was definitely not willing to marry some old pimp- that was practically molestation to her! She would rather live her life single and independent, but in this time and age, that seemed like a taboo concept.

    Dejectedly, Yujia stops in her steps and turns around. Hui'er looks at Yujia strangely.

    "Miss, are you not going to go talk to Old Master?"

    "What point is there?" Yujia sighs, turning back around to seat herself at a small table. She taps her fingers on the wood, strategizing any possible solutions to get herself out of this betrothal. After a brief moment, she turns her head back to Hui'er, a new thought in mind. "Hui'er, you mentioned before that I received an allowance. How much of an allowance is it?"

    Counting on her fingers for a few moments, Hui'er deducts, "About ten silver taels every half a year, Miss. All your living costs are already covered, so this would count as your extra allowance."

    Only ten taels? Yujia had no idea how currency in this world worked, but ten didn't seem like a very high number. Perhaps it really was because again, Yang Yujia was an illegitimate child.

    "Hm... then, if I were to... live off of that money without any of the living costs covered, how long would I survive?"

    "Miss, what are you thinking?" The eyebrows of Yujia's maid fly up. "You would never need to do that."

    Yujia raises a finger. "Hypothetically, Hui'er. Hypothetically."

    Hui'er hesitates for a few seconds before answering. "Then... maybe only three months if you spent the bare minimum every day."

    Three months? That wasn't enough!

    "But Miss," Hui'er continued, "last night you already spent half a tael to buy wine, and the previous few months, you've spent at least three taels buying other things for yourself... like threads and silks to embroider on... don't you remember? So if you tallied it all up, at most, you only have six taels left, more or less. At most, if you tried to survive on that, you'll only have two months."

    Two months? Even worse!

    Yujia clenches her fist. Why did the previous Yang Yujia have such trouble managing her money? 'You could've at least left me a full ten taels, alright...'

    "Alright then, Hui'er, let me tell you what I'm thinking of." Yujia brushes a strand of her behind her ear. "From now on, before the marriage ceremony with the Yu family and whatnot, I'll be saving up all my money so I can make a break for it before the marriage. Sounds good?"

    Hui'er looks at Yujia with disbelief. Was her Fourth Miss going crazy? Why would she even think of trying to live with the support of her family, however little that was? "But Miss, the marriage date was already decided to be the sixteenth of next month. The calendars say that it's the most auspicious date to hold the marriage, so that's why the Old Master decided to hold it there."

    "Next month?" Yujia winces. "Isn't that too soon?"

    Hui'er shakes her head.

    Taking a deep breath, Yujia bites the inside of her cheek and waves her hand. "Let's try to make some money then." She looks around the room, searching for familiar materials that may be lying out in the open. "Say, Hui'er, is there any... brushes and ink lying around? Or whatever you people use to draw?"

    Hui'er thinks for a minute. As far as she knew, her Fourth Miss never drew or learned how to- so why would she be interested in such a peculiar request all of a sudden? Ever since the Fourth Miss woke up this morning, she had acted like a different person, completely unaware of anything. Hui'er had accounted it to the fact that her Fourth Miss might've just been still recovering from her hangover and becoming sober, but the more she thought about it, the stranger her behavior was.

    Nevertheless, Hui'er obeyed the Fourth Miss's orders, and headed out of the room to get some scrolls and brushes for her to use.

    Only a few minutes passed before Hui'er returned, holding the supplies in her hand. Carefully, she laid the brushes and inks out, beginning to grind the inkstone and adding in water to create some ink. The ink was by far the cheapest and lowest in quality in the household, but it would work for the time being.

    Seeing the materials, Yujia's eyes lit up, and she picked up the brush, twirling it in her hands. As far as she remembered, these brushes that Hui'er brought for her appeared quite similar to the Chinese brushes that Yujia used while in art school during a semester where they studied cultural art. Although it seemed like decades ago that Yujia learned how to mimic the styles of old artists, she could still manageably pass off a decent painting, couldn't she?

    Dipping the brush into the ink, Yujia flicks her wrist and makes the first, bold mark on the thin scroll of paper.

    Hui'er, on the side, watches with both puzzlement and surprise, her mind continuing trying to piece things together. The Fourth Miss looked like such a professional, standing up and leaning over the paper, her movements precise and clean. Even though Hui'er didn't have any experience with painting, this- this was obvious to anyone that the Fourth Miss's movements were not that of someone who had never picked up a paintbrush before!

    What was happening? When did the Fourth Miss learn how to draw? Why was she painting in the first place? Weren't they talking about her allowance just a second ago?

    Hui'er was more confused than ever.
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