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6 The Fourth Miss’s Plan To Conquer the Markets

    Slowly, Hui'er watched as a full painting revealed itself in front of her eyes. The painting was a simple piece depicting a pavillion nestled between yards of mountains fading away in the distance, the moon hanging from the skies while the cloud and fog spread over the mountains, setting a mysterious yet familiar impression. Looking at it allowed Hui'er to immerse herself into the little world her Fourth Miss created. She could practically feel the cool breeze and fluttering leaves brushing by her shoulder, hear the crickets chirping in the night, and touch the moon itself, which seemed to be right in her reach.

    \"Hui'er?\"

    Hearing the voice of her Fourth Miss, Hui'er snapped out of her dazed look, turning her gaze away from the painting. Reality rushed back to her, and once again, she was back into the dull room that she served at.

    \"Hui'er, do you like my painting?\" The Fourth Miss set her brush down, tapping the table as she stepped away to view it. \"I think it looks rather nice. Exceptionally good since I haven't practiced this style lately.\"

    \"Miss, when did you learn how to draw?\"

    Every brush stroke and the slightest flick of the wrist, worked together perfectly. The painting was so magnificent that Hui'er's soul was practically captured into the picture! Hui'er served the Fourth Miss for years, yet she only ever saw the Fourth Miss embroider- when did her Fourth Miss turn into a professional painter?

    \"Oh, since... forever.\" Nonchalantly, Yujia waved her hand. \"I am omnipotent. Why wouldn't I be able to?\"

    Sneaking a look at Hui'er, Yujia figured that her maid didn't look too pleased with her response, but how was Yujia supposed to explain? Tell the girl that she was actually an art major back in the modern world? Yujia doubted that Hui'er even knew what college was. The world would think of her as crazy if Yujia started spreading word that she was actually a different person, if what they perceived of her wasn't terrible enough.

    Speaking of which, Yujia learned some very interesting things as she chatted with Hui'er while painting.

    Yujia figured that she needed to dig up some information about the previous Yang Yujia so that she didn't make a fool of herself in public. So, she decided to subtly question her maid about her personality, behavior, and status. Thankfully, Hui'er didn't ask much on why she needed to know and answered her questions thoroughly.

    From her mini-interrogation-session, Yujia learned again that the time was some strange dynasty called Xiang, somewhere between the Sui and Tang Dynasties. Apparently, after the Sui dynasty, history went a little out of order, and instead of the Li family stepping in to create the Tang Dynasty, some Fu family created the Xiang Dynasty. So now, history was nothing the same.

    This didn't bother Yujia too much though. Her personal family matters were more concerning to her at the moment. As Hui'er revealed, the Yang Family was actually nothing close to the big, rich merchant trope Yujia was expecting. Her father was actually a small merchant with a little bit of wealth amassed, enough to call himself a merchant. The Yu Family's old master was actually the more ideal family for Yujia- they were the third biggest merchant in the capital, running both a salt business and a silk business. Likely, the reason why her father was so eager to marry her into the Yu Family would be because of this wealth. He was probably looking for both business connections and a bride price[1] for her to earn some extra cash.

    Yujia learned bits and pieces of who she was before she asked Hui'er about it, but it was only until this conversation that she learned her entire backstory. Her mother, supposedly, embroidered clothes for a living, and somehow, her father spotted her and decided that she was the one. Certainly romantic, but not very much when Yujia was born and her father decided to leave her mother be but to take the child to raise in his villa.

    Yujia, from then, supposedly developed a hatred for everyone in the household, mostly because none showed an ounce of kindness to an illegitimate child like her. Her three older sisters apparently picked on the previous Yang Yujia to an extreme, and her younger sister, Yang Xiaoyi, was heavily suspected and disliked simply because she was too nice. Yujia lived a sickly life ever since she turned thirteen, and was confined to her courtyard up until now, at eighteen years old. She never expected much or took much, and quietly lived her life, enduring all the harsh treatment because that was simply her life.

    Truthfully, it sounded like a sob story to Yujia.

    After hearing all this, Yujia realized that she had practically no resemblance to the owner of the body, be it physical appearance or personality. Miraculously, she wasn't feeling very sick either, so perhaps transmigrating helped her health in some way.

    All in all, being the Fourth Miss was still a new start for her, a blessing of some sort. She would find a way to make a good future for herself, and it wouldn't involve art.

    For now, however, Yujia had no choice but to stick to her only talent.

    Before she transmigrated, she had to admit that her passion for art was already beginning to die after all the discouragement she received in the past. Yet now, after painting, Yujia almost felt a little... giddy. She wasn't sure if it was the sheer concept of transmigration that boosted her morale, but seeing the positive reaction Hui'er had while looking at her painting seemed to give her confidence again.

    Her situation seemed bad, but at least it wasn't as bad as her past life. As long as she took ahold of this opportunity well, who knew if luck would treat her a little nicer this time around?

    Lightly, Yujia blew on the paint, testing to see if it was dry and figuring out that it wasn't at all. Frowning disappointedly, Yujia pointed at the painting and nodded at Hui'er.

    \"Alright, Hui'er, take this out on the market and sell it. See how much you can make, but don't sell it for less than... hm... fifty taels.\"

    \"Fifty taels? Silver?\" Hui'er's eyes widened in disbelief at her words. Was the Fourth Miss going crazy? Their allowance for half a year was only ten taels! Fifty silver taels could buy a fourth of the entire villa, which was worth only around two hundred taels. She admitted that the painting the Fourth Miss just created was above the skill of an average person, but fifty whole taels...

    By this point, Hui'er was convinced that there was something absolutely wrong with her Fourth Miss. She wasn't sure if now was a good time to ask, but she could tell that everything about her Fourth Miss was off.

    Seeing the face Hui'er made towards the number, Yujia began to wonder if perhaps, fifty taels was worth a lot of money. It definitely wasn't much at all back in the modern world- fifty yuan would only buy a small sketchbook for her- but then again, the Fourth Miss only received ten taels every half a year.

    Even so, Yujia wanted to test things out. If fifty taels truly was worth a lot, then it would only draw the attention of buyers even more by making them wonder why the painting was worth so much. Attention was always good. If the painting didn't sell, Yujia didn't worry much either. It was only her first day. She would just lower the price and try some more the next day.

    \"Hui'er, listen to me, and go out and sell the painting. Fifty silvers, more or less, is a good number to try. I plan to save up enough money for myself to buy myself out of this marriage. That works, doesn't it?\"

    Not only did Yujia's plan sound ridiculous to Hui'er- who ever heard of a case of a daughter buying herself free from an engagement?- but the fact that her Fourth Miss was determined for a whole fifty taels... Everything sounded ridiculous.

    \"Miss, I don't know a lot about art, but I'm pretty sure it won't sell for fifty...\"

    Was it possible that despite the awed look Hui'er first had when she saw the painting, the work wasn't that good by the standards of this time period? Yujia admitted that she didn't have the widest knowledge base over Chinese painting, but she had a decent amount of confidence in her talent. From the way that Hui'er worded her statement, it almost sounded like she was either looking down on her skill or that the price Yujia set was too ridiculous.

    For a brief moment, Yujia considered asking Hui'er the true worth of fifty taels, but she chose not to. She couldn't think of a possible way of asking this if she wanted to pass off as a person of this time period. So, she settled with the next best question.

    \"Why?\"

    Hui'er pointed at the corner of the paper. \"Because, Miss, all professional painters have an alias seal[2] to mark their paintings. All the paintings the Old Master has all have that. If you don't have one of those, then buyers might think this was some fraud painting made by a non-professional.\"

    Oh. A smile resurfaced on Yujia's face. She just recalled that a seal would've been an important way to mark the works in this time period. Back then, she was used to simply signing her paintings, but in this time and age, a red seal-stamp was about the same as a signature.

    \"Well then, Hui'er, that is a problem we must fix.\" Yujia nodded thoughtfully, picking the brush lying on the table again. She dipped the very tip of it into the ink and carelessly scribbled her name in the right corner, similar to how she would with a fine-tip paintbrush and a bit of acrylic or oil paint. \"Good now?\"

    Hui'er nervously looked at the corner of the painting. What was her Fourth Miss doing? All she did was to scribble a few illegible lines in the corner... That wasn't going to fix anything!

    \"Fourth Miss... I don't understand...\"

    \"Silly Hui'er, that's my signature!\"

    \"Your what...?\"

    [1] A concept used in ancient China where the groom would pay the bride's family to be able to marry the bride. The bride's family would also have to provide a dowry, which would act as the bride's inheritance.

    [2] Artists in ancient China used a red stamp as their signature. Seals are also used as signatures of government officials and etc.
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