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51 The Fourth Miss Starts Her Commission

    With Hui'er following behind her and the guard leading her in front, Yujia slowly walked through the entrance of the Bo villa. Just like the outer appearance, the inside of the villa was extravagant as well. A large pond with carp swimming inside was placed right at the entrance, surrounded by other plants. A carefully planked bridge arched over the pond. Two other paths curved around the sides of the pond, paved with detailed stone.

    The guard led her through the path to the right, then turned another left to the entrance of a large courtyard. When Yujia entered through that, the guard politely gestured towards the room at the front, then spun and left without leaving another word.

    Yujia's lips pursed and she looked in the direction of the room. She took a deep breath, then walked forward, going up the steps that lead to the entrance. The two doors to the room were left open, so very hesitantly, she took a step in.

    The front of the room, right at the entrance, was already decorated with numerous paintings hanging on the wall and a cabinet displaying all sorts of elegant vases and jade carvings. When Yujia admired the pieces of art for a few brief moments, she noticed that amongst the few paintings hanging on the wall, the first one she painted with the mountains was hung up as well, right next to her second painting of the roosters.

    She looked towards the right and was greeted with high bookshelves filled with scrolls and booklets. There didn't seem to be anyone present there, so she turned her head towards the direction of the voices, and saw the person she was looking for.

    Her commissioner, Bo Zhiyuan, was sitting at a low table, writing out calligraphy. To his side, an attractive girl was grinding his inkstone, slowly pouring a bit of water in it and mixing it to create a deep black ink.

    As Yujia looked at her, she found that this girl could not be a maid in any way. She was dressed in a set of blushing pink robes embroidered with golden butterflies and blooming lotuses. The pink robes were layered over a set of pale green ones, giving her the appearance of an actual lotus flower, petals and leaves and all. Even the golden hair pins threaded through her hair resembled the inside yellow buds of a lotus.

    Her beauty was undeniable as well, further confirming the fact that there wasn't any possibility that she was a servant. A set of thin, willow-leaf shaped brows rested gently over her large eyes. Her nose was small and sloped, while her lips were parted slightly, the color of a newly blossomed flower. With her softly blushing cheeks, she truly mirrored a flower in every way.

    If Yujia had to guess, the girl who was assisting Bo Zhiyuan could only be the subject of her portrait today, his fiancée.

    Zhiyuan was the first to notice her presence. He set his brush down, and smiled. "Miss Yang, you've arrived."

    His fiancée next to him looked at her, her eyes widening. Then, shly, she dipped her head down. Zhiyuan wasn't quite as shy, waving for her to come over.

    "I expected that you would be coming sometime around now," he continued, "the guards didn't give you any trouble at the front, did they?"

    Yujia shook her head. "They were quite... polite? What did you tell them?"

    "Nothing much." He chuckled slightly. "Something along the lines that you were a wise shamen who lived in seclusion for decades, and that I specially invited you over here to the villa so that you could predict my future for me and to bring me good luck. Also that if they angered you in any way, you could bring upon years of misfortune and disaster to them, so it would be better to treat you with as much respect as they could."

    After hearing that, Yujia blinked. "You- what?"

    Was this man crazy? Why would he make up such an unbelievable story? What was the point of doing so? It would be more suiting to just tell the truth. Besides, did she even look like someone who could pass off for someone older than twenty, much less many decades of age?

    "The guards are quite gullible. I like to make a good joke to scare them sometimes." He shrugged as he explained.

    There were a few brief moments of silence before he sat a little straighter. "Right. Let me introduce you- this is Zhou Luowei, my fiancée. Luowei, this is the painter I was talking about."

    Luowei looked up through her long eyelashes, her voice reticent as she replied, "Luowei greets this master painter."

    Master painter? Yujia smiled a little under her veil. "I am not a master painter, just someone who paints and draws a bit as a hobby. If it is alright, may I ask for your age?"

    The girl dipped her head down again. "I am twenty."

    "Twenty?" Yujia smiled some more. "Then, I would have to call you 'older sister'! There is no need to act so humble around me."

    Luowei looked up in surprise, while Zhiyuan laughed again. "Luowei has always been a little shy around strangers. Hope you don't mind that."

    Yujia kept her smile on as she took the art supplies that Hui'er was holding. "Let's begin with the commission then, shall we?"

    "Of course." Zhiyuan stood up, gesturing to another table to his side, next to a set of open windows, sunlight streaking all over the desk. "Would this be alright of an area?"

    "That's fine." Yujia headed over, sitting down and placing out her paper and pencils in front of her. Hui'er helped in organizing the table, placing two steamed bread wrapped in fabric to her side.

    Luowei followed suit, sitting across from her. She curiously looked at the pencils that were resting on the table, her head tilting a slight angle as she observed them. That was when Yujia realized how peculiar the entire situation might be for the girl in her perspective. She was being drawn by another individual who would be paid to do so, and the artist was drawing her with odd sticks that made dark marks on paper and steamed bread to take away the marks.

    Oh well.

    There was no need to worry about how strange things were. Yujia just needed to get her taels, so to her, it didn't particularly matter how her subject of portrait felt about modeling.

    She began by sketching out the general shape of Luowei's oval face. Following that, she dragged her hand across the paper, drawing out thin guidelines for the proportions of her face. Luowei's eyes were a bit lower and larger than generic proportions, and her lips and nose were both thinner. Once the guidelines were set out, Yujia only had to move on to drawing the details. Things were going well.

    While Yujia sketched quickly, Bo Zhiyuan was observing her with an interested gaze. He focused on the pencils in her hand, which Yujia noticed.

    "This is what you were talking about the other day?" he asked.

    Yujia raised her eyebrows and agreed briefly, her focus still on getting the shape of Luowei's eyes corect.

    "What did you call it again?"

    "A pencil." She moved onto the eyelashes and a bit of the eyebrows as she explained. "It is like a brush with a solid center of graphite."

    "And you're the inventor?"

    On the inside, Yujia laughed. She was certainly not the inventor of a pencil, but in this location and time period, she assumed that she could be considered as one. Besides, it wasn't that she completely stole the idea of a pencil from someone else- she had to figure out how to make it by herself as well. It was only right that she could take credit for this tool.

    "Yes." Yujia stopped for a short time on her sketch, picking up a pencil she labeled with "2B". She wasn't at the point of doing any shading yet, so she shouldn't need it for some time. This was also a pencil that she had two of, so even if she did need it, she could always use the second one. "You can try it out, if you would like."

    Zhiyuan took the pencil from her hands, getting up from his seat next to Luowei and bringing the pencil to his table at the front. He moved his calligraphy to the side, and very hesitantly, he picked up another piece of new paper.

    His eyes moved towards what Yujia was doing, observing her. A few moments passed where he looked like he was trying to get a grasp of how to hold on to the pencil. Once he seemed to understand, he drew a shaky line down the page. A marveled expression appeared on his face.

    Seeing that he was surprised by how the pencil worked, Yujia smiled a little on the inside and continued on with her sketch. To the side, Bo Zhiyuan continued drawing with the pencil, his lines becoming more confident. When Yujia looked over again, she noticed that he was holding the pencil wrong- he held it completely vertically like a calligraphy brush- which caused his lines to be very light and shaky, but she didn't feel the need to correct him.

    Let him be amazed with what he was doing right now.
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