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48 A Final Decision From the Fourth Miss

    Hui'er's story ended like that, a plain ending that foretold the past before everything all went downhill. Yujia stayed silent the entire time, blankly staring out to the distant and trying to comprehend the story she heard.

    The silence of words after the story finished brought Yujia back to reality. The chirping of a few crickets echoed against the light of the faint moonlight cast down on both of them.

    "Hui'er- I-" Yujia's voice was completely uncertain. She didn't know what words she was supposed to say or how she was supposed to react after hearing all of that. She originally wanted to hear the girl's side of the story so that she could have a clear culprit and a clear victim. A clear protagonist and antagonist. A clear right and wrong. A clear good and bad.

    But there was none of that.

    It was all a blurry mess of actions and choices, clouding together to form a story with no definite start or end.

    She couldn't say that Yang Qingxia, the First Miss, was the victim. Li Huiyu was one as well. She couldn't say that Li Huiyu was the villain either. Madam Zhang was one as well.

    And Madam Zhang- how could Yujia decide if she was completely the villain too without knowing her side of the story?

    Yujia was lost. Confused. She didn't like this indefinite situation at all. She just wanted a clear cut answer, but that didn't exist.

    When she looked up to see the messy tears pouring out of Huiyu's eyes and pooling at her chin, she realized that this was simply how the world worked. There was never a clear distinguishment between the good and bad.

    Hui'er was crying.

    It wasn't a pretty, dainty, and delicate sort of crying that poets and authors described. It was a sloppy sort of crying, the one that came with ugly choked back sobs and frequent loud sniffles. The tears came spilling out of her eyes, streaking over her normally calm face and blurring her red eyes. Her nose was running, and she kept using her sleeves to stop the tears.

    They only kept coming.

    Yujia never was good at condolences. She didn't know how to console others. She was never good at advice. She wasn't sure that with the newfound distance between the two if any sort of warm gesture or hug would be welcomed or wanted.

    So, Yujia just grabbed onto Hui'er's hand, wrapping around it and giving her some warmth to heat up her ice cold hands.

    "Don't cry," Yujia whispered, her voice barely audible despite the still environment. "It's all over now. It's just the past."

    To her surprise, Hui'er leaned forward and sunk her head in Yujia's shoulders, sobbing into them with broken words.

    "I- I- miss them. My family. My mother. My brother. Even- even- my father. And the First Miss. I miss her too. It's so strange- so strange- thinking about what I did to her- but I still miss her so, so much. I miss being her friend. I miss talking to her. I miss all of it."

    Yujia closed her eyes. She put an arm around Hui'er gently, patting her shoulder in slow motions.

    Hui'er seemed like a child again. She was a child all along, one that was never given a chance to fully grow up under the warmth and love of her parents, hastily attempting to fit herself in the grown up world of adults while burying her childhood away.

    How could Yujia blame her? How could she blame anyone involved?

    Regardless of her past, at that moment, Yujia forgave Hui'er for her actions. She knew that she didn't have the right to forgive Hui'er- only Yang Qingxia truly did- but Yujia would not hold what the girl did against her.

    That would be her ultimate, final decision.

    ...

    The two of them were back in Yujia's room, returned to the same position that they were only in a few hours ago, with Hui'er sitting as Yujia's model and Yujia continuing on with her portrait sketching in the dim candlelight.

    It was almost unbelievable to Yujia how much had happened during the past few hours that stretched out to seem like an eternity. She also didn't imagine herself to be still working on her portrait after everything that happened, yet here she was, working on the strands of hair on her maid's head.

    She forgot how much drawing was a calming process to her, one that let her gather her thoughts. It gave her the relaxation that she needed, a sort of peace and quiet that let her mind travel far away.

    Hui'er was not crying anymore, though her eyes were still stained red and puffy. That was alright- Yujia would just work on her face another day. She was surprisingly compliant to continue modelling for Yujia as well.

    Yujia was the first one to break the silence between them.

    "Did... Madam Zhang never reunite you with your family?"

    It took Hui'er a few moments to respond. "No." She exhaled deeply. "At some point in my life, when I didn't hear from her anymore, I think I realized that all along, she might've never had the intention of letting me go. Or that she didn't even hear word of my family either in the first place, and that the whole thing was just an elaborate plan to get me to do as she said. I was irrational to believe that she really intended to act on her word."

    Yujia bit her bottom lip. "Then, why did you take so long to tell the First Miss that you were the one who caused her miscarriage? Why didn't you tell her that her mother was the one who forced you to?"

    "I was afraid that she would hate me." The answer that came out of Hui'er's mouth was straightforward. "I- don't even know how my brain worked back then. I didn't think of the consequences once I started feeding her the poison, but when all of it finally gathered together and ended the life of her child, that was when I began to comprehend that the cost of my actions was the life of one and the hatred of another."

    She paused again, taking in a deep breath and exhaling like she did before.

    "And once the secret was out, I couldn't bear myself to tell the First Miss that it was her mother who was the true cause behind everything. At least now, she can put her all her hatred and blame on me. She could still feel some love towards someone else. I- I don't know how she would react if I told her the truth. I don't want her to go through the pain that she already did four years ago again."

    A small snapping sound came from Yujia's pencil when Hui'er finished with her words. Yujia realized that she pressed down a little too hard. The lead of the pencil broke.

    Yujia reached over to the small knife at the side which she used to sharpen the pencils. Her words were quiet again when she asked her last question.

    "What if everything happened all over again? What if the same thing repeated, but I was the First Miss instead? Would you- would you do the same thing to me?"

    Her eyes flitted upwards, cautiously looking at Hui'er to see her response.

    Hui'er instantly blinked, straightening herself. "No, Miss. I've learnt from all of this. It is my duty as your maid to serve you. To keep you safe and well. No matter what happens, I would not do the same thing that I did in the past."

    Yujia was careful when she picked her words. "Then, what if you could truly, actually reunite with your mother, father, and brother, and the price of meeting them would be to betray me? What would be your response then?"

    "I would choose to stay with you, Miss." Hui'er's eyes reflected resolve when she spoke.

    "Good. Good." Yujia placed the newly sharpened pencil back on the strand of hair she was working on. "I hope that this is the case if something like this comes to arrive. I am putting my trust in you, Hui'er. Don't make me regret it."
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