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29 Pencils and the Fourth Miss

    Now that Hui'er was finished with her explanation and Yujia needed to do something more productive with her life, she pulled out a small fabric-fashioned satchel out of her pockets.

    "Hui'er, guess what I have!" Excitedly, Yujia showed the fabric to Hui'er, peeling it open to reveal the clay that she gathered earlier in the forest.

    "Dirt?" A puzzled look appears on Hui'er's face.

    "No, silly, it's clay." Yujia rubbed a bit between her fingers. Although there was only a little amount of clay, she didn't think that she needed too much, and if she did, she would just go to the marketplace and purchase some more, which was likely a smarter and more secure idea than digging up the clay herself. Nevertheless, her journey to the forest did make her smarter with her newly achieved information that a path to the right in the forest would be an excellent escape route for her, so she considered it somewhat of a worthy trip.

    "Now, Hui'er," Yujia hummed, "get me two small bowls, one with a bit of water and one just empty... oh, and the wooden molds and supplies I bought the other day. Something to mix with too... and make that two things. Something thicker and something thinner."

    Hui'er still wasn't sure what her Fourth Miss was doing- she was never given any details- but she obeyed and went to collect the supplies. A few minutes later, she returned with the equipment and set it down in front of Yujia.

    Giving Hui'er a thankful smile, Yujia organized the equipment on top of a table so that it appeared more orderly. She dumped the entire scoop of clay into the bowl with the shallow amount of water inside, and took the thicker "something to mix with" that she asked from Hui'er- which turned out to be a single chopstick- and combined the clay with the water slowly to create a more watery and moldable mixture.

    Then, Yujia dumped a bit of the mixture out into the clean bowl. She opened the satchel of graphite that Hui'er picked up from the vendor that morning, pinching a bit and scattering it into the mixture. Even though Yujia didn't know how much she needed, she figured that a decent amount of graphite should have been needed for more pigment, so she went with about two pinches.

    Under Yujia's eyes, the clay-water-graphite mixture slowly darkened, turning into the shade she wanted. For good measure, though, she added a bit more graphite to darken it just a bit more.

    After that, Yujia pulled out one of the testing pencil molds she asked for. Carefully, she slowly poured the mixture in the mold, using a thin twig that Hui'er brought for the thinner "something to mix with" to push the mixture down.

    Once that was finished, Yujia set the pencil on the windowsill and waved her hands at Hui'er. "We just have to wait for that to set and dry now. Let's hope that's a good ratio of clay and water. I think that we probably need more clay to get this thing made, so can you go the market and buy some more for me?"

    Yujia tossed her satchel of taels to Hui'er. She trusted that Hui'er would spend the money wisely, considering that the younger girl knew much more about the world than her, and even if Hui'er wanted to buy a little something for herself with the taels, Yujia wouldn't mind, considering all that Hui'er already did for her.

    Yujia bit the inside of her cheek, thinking. She needed to find another way to earn some quick money while her pencils were still being made. Then, an idea came to her.

    "Oh, and Hui'er, if you look at the front of the courtyard, there's a fur cloak draped somewhere around there. That probably costs a decent price, so see if you can sell it for something at the market."

    Hui'er was yet again confused by her Fourth Miss. When did she ever have a fur cloak? Did she buy it at the market? But then, why would she want to sell it? Regardless, Hui'er quickly set those thoughts aside. If she could sell the fur cloak for some extra taels, it wouldn't hurt.

    After those thoughts, Hui'er turned around, heading out the courtyard and in the direction of the market.
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