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8 When the Fourth Miss Searches for Alternatives

    While Hui'er was gone, Yujia paced around her room, occasionally opening a few drawers and cabinets to familiarize herself with this place. She noticed that the courtyard she was situated in was not much bigger than her apartment back in the modern world, something that certainly happened because of her status in the household.

    There were not much things in the Fourth Miss's possession either. Seemingly, the previous Yujia did not care for much clothing or cosmetics. After searching for a full ten minutes, Yujia only found a stack of neatly folded light blue robes similar to the robes she had on- so pale that in the sunlight, it looked nearly white. Cosmetics, on the other hand, were virtually nonexistent. There were no powders or rouge. Even accessories were cut down to the bare minimum, a few bracelets and hairpins being the only things within the numerous drawers.

    While she pushed another empty drawer shut, Yujia sighed. She was relying on the idea of selling a few of the jewelries the Fourth Miss owned so that she could at least get some more spare change, but that was an idiotic idea in retrospect. Even the occasional bracelets she found looked and felt like cheap jade.

    Her eyes flitted back to the painting material Hui'er brought her on the table. Previously, she managed to paint a decent picture, but she still wasn't sure whether or not it would even sell for fifty silver taels. With the marriage coming up within a month, how much money could she possibly earn? Was her plan even logical?

    Yujia groaned, sitting down at the table and absentmindedly twirling the paintbrush in her fingers. These materials were foreign to her, making it even more difficult for her to express her artistic values. She was used to sketching out idea with a pencil or graphite, and besides painting with oil paints and acrylics, she also enjoyed sketching. It didn't seem like the Xiang Dynasty would have pencils invented however, if it came before the Tang Dynasty... not that she knew much about how art developed within each dynasty, but Yujia was pretty certain that painting and art flourished in the Tang and Sui Dynasties, not before them.

    With that thought in mind, Yujia pondered how she was going to somehow find a way to either adapt to the already existing media or figure out a way to invent pencils herself.

    Taking a glance at the inkstone and inkstick, Yujia hesitantly pick up the inkstick lying by the side, drying it off and pulling out a clean sheet of paper. Gently, she dragged the stick of ink across the paper, watching as it made a not-so-satisfactory-but-dark rough mark. The stroke was difficult to transfer onto the paper, but if she pressed hard enough, pigment would definitely come off of the stick.

    So, albeit the fact that she managed to mark the paper with this tool, it seemed rudimentary and difficult to master. With a frown, Yujia decided it would be a challenge to find something to replace a pencil. What was even in a pencil? Lead? Couldn't be, right? That must've been changed years ago. Yujia had an intense moment of recalling before she remembered that they must've been graphite.

    Her gaze returned to the stick of ink, pondering the question of whether or not the stick would have graphite inside. If so, couldn't she pound the stick up, add some water and whatnot, then convert it into a pencil? That was somewhat reasonable... right?

    First, then, Yujia had to discover what to use for the pencil mold. Quickly, she rose up, remembering that while she was discovering her environment, there was a nice tree planted in the front. If she could break off a thin branch from the tree and somehow manage to carve a hole inside of it, couldn't she then fill the stick with graphite powder and water and somehow... make a pencil?

    The idea seemed quite imaginary, but then again, this was a new world, a new life. Yujia had to take a few pointless risks and try out new things before she could get decent results. For the sake of having a pencil to draw with, Yujia was willing to do all of this!

    Good luck, Artist Yang!

    ...

    During the moment that Yujia was reaching an epiphany on pencil-making, Hui'er was still struggling to calm the crowd down. The volume of their voices only seemed to increase more and more, to the point that the entire din of the market was overwhelmed by the racket that the men around her were making.

    And they called themselves wise, mature men! To think that these so called sophisticated men would argue so angrily over one single painting! Although Hui'er was scared by the ruckus, she couldn't help but admit that she looked down on these men who simply wished to tear others down when they didn't fit the norm.

    Then, all of a sudden, amidst all the shouting, the clear voice of a young male rang out, breaking all the previous noise before.

    "I will pay thirty silver taels."

    The crowd froze, turning around in surprise to see who it was that yelled out such a phrase. Thirty taels? Even though that was less than the original price of fifty, thirty was still a great deal. Who was so idiotic as to pay a total of thirty taels for a fraud?

    Turns out, the buyer was a man who could not be older than twenty-five, his hair neatly tied back and wearing a set of elegant emerald robes. The man was not the most handsome, but his features were above average and in good proportion, having one of those faces that instantly made the other guess that he was a friendly person who enjoyed the company of others. He held a closed paper fan in his left hand, tapping it against his right hand while nodding knowingly as he walked closer to the painting.

    Hui'er stared at him, but he only had eyes for the painting. This was until he looked up, as if just noticing that there was a mass of angry people around him. His expression changed into a confused one.

    "Why are you all arguing over such a good painting. Why, thirty silver taels is far too little- I say I would pay at least forty for a painting like such."
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