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67 A Final Score For the Fourth Miss

    At the third part of the exam, all examinees were provided with the same things they were given before, except this time, along the brush, ink, and paper, there were also a few colored inksticks provided for those who wanted to use colored ink.

    "You will be given the time of a stick of incense to complete this part of the exam," the examiner instructed, "As mentioned before, you will be painting for this part of the exam. There are no limits. You may paint anything you want, in color or in black and white. The only rule is that like before, no discussion is permitted. Begin."

    Yujia looked at the stick of burning incense, burning down a little more every second. It looked like she would only have about an hour to finish her painting, so she wouldn't be able to create something too complex or awe-inspiring. It was a test of pure skill and talent.

    She thought back to her well-received rooster painting that she painted before, and then back to the numerous birds she drew during her bird concentration study in the modern world. Should she paint birds?

    Because of the fact that landscape paintings were the most valued, she knew that it was smart to paint it to appeal to the judges, but she also didn't want to blend in with everyone else who was surely going to do the same thing.

    Yujia couldn't waste anymore time thinking. She picked up her brush, dipped it in black ink and washed it across the paper, creating the shadows of a few mountains. This time, she was going to borrow the style of Mi Fu of the Song Dynasty. His technique of using more impressionist brush strokes instead of classic detail meant that it would definitely stand out amongst all the other paintings. Instead of before, where only having knowledge over painters in later dynasties was a disadvantage, it would be an advantage for her this time.

    Yujia used some water and black ink to blur out the bottom of the mountains, similar to what Mi Fu did for may of his paintings to create the false perception of depth with fog and mist. Once she created a few small details in the mountains, she worked on drawing a plum tree at the very bottom of the page.

    Paintings of plum generally had the plum blossoms filled in with red ink, but Yujia chose not to. Color would take away from the center focus of her painting, which she was about to work on next.

    At the very bottom of the lowest branch of plum, she began outlining the wings of a small swallow. The bird suited the general mood of the painting, and she wanted her mountain painting to not be as generic as everyone else's. If she drew a few birds, it would give the painting a touch of life, while being a small detail as well.

    She also chose to make the background less detailed to bring the viewer's attention to the detail of the swallow. It was all a matter of contrast, the difference between blurry backgrounds and sharp center focus.

    Her swallows, being rather small, were all drawn quickly. She dotted a few around the plum tree, and then a few more flying off to the distance, behind the mountains, where they would fade into vague mist like everything else.

    The incense stick didn't even finish burning when she completed her painting. Yujia looked up, seeing that many were still working on their finishing touches.

    Surely, her painting which held more vibrant life than all the other plain mountain paintings would stand out and give her the good score she needed to move on. Based on her calculations, she had to score in the top three for her score to be brought up enough to let her pass.

    Top three- it should be possible for her. She may not be that confident over her theory knowledge or judgement, but the act of painting itself came naturally to her. Top three, top three, top three...

    ...

    The scorers didn't know how to respond when they saw Yu Ziyang's result for the last round.

    Really, was this all an elaborate joke?

    How could it be possible that someone who scored so poorly in the past two rounds do so well for the last test? Just from a single look, they could tell that it was the work of someone who definitely didn't recently begin painting. It wasn't the work of a true master, but whoever painted it was gifted with so much talent that he used many techniques that the scorers, each respectively being masters in the school, didn't even recognize half of them. That was what elevated the painting to a whole new level.

    When the first scorer looked at the painting born from Yu Ziyang, he gained a new sense of enlightenment. He felt like so many new ideas and methods that could be applied to painting were revealed to him, and that by just observing the painting in front of him for ten minutes, he learned more than he could've learned by painting for an entire year.

    When the second scorer looked at the painting, he admired the incredible composition of the painting. The blurred background and detailed objects of focus brought much more depth than the other vague paintings he saw with either pure vagueness or too much detail that the entire painting felt crowded and chaotic. It definitely was pure talent that led for Yu Ziyang to think of such an idea for a painting within the small time frame of the exam.

    When the third scorer looked at the painting, he felt a little humiliated at himself for being so against everything that Yu Ziyang did when the boy was able to create a painting of this level. He thought that the boy was a joke in the first two rounds, yet now that he saw the work he created, it was shameful for him to think that he opposed someone who had so much innate talent.

    They all came to a conclusion about the skillset of Yu Ziyang: he was an absolute idiot when it came to knowledge over painting, but at the same time, he was also an absolute genius at painting itself.

    Could it be that this was the reason why orders were given to give anyone with the surname Yu more chances? Was it in fact that this was the individual with the surname of Yu they were talking about, not Yu Zixu?

    The second scorer spoke up first. "What should we do now? We did plan to fail him in the beginning... but if we let such talent leave Lingxin..."

    The first scorer replied, "Compared to all the other paintings, his work really does stand above the rest. It's worthy enough of the first three spots, and if we give him that score, he'll definitely pass despite his poor results in the past."

    "I think he should pass," the third scorer came up with his conclusion, "I know that I was very against the idea of Yu Ziyang entering Lingxin in the first place. Except now, looking at his painting, even I have to agree that it would be a loss to let him fail."

    All three were silent for a moment, knowing that letting him pass was a good idea. Though...

    "What if it's a fraud?" The first scorer furrowed his eyebrows, coming up with a new conclusion. "It could be a fraud."

    "How so? It's impossible for him to copy. They were all heavily monitored during the exam, and no one else had a painting similar to this one."

    "Maybe he doesn't really have talent. Perhaps he copied the work of a master, or..." The first scorer's words fell off halfway, realizing that this argument didn't logically make sense. He couldn't think of how someone could demonstrate such skill and talent at the same time yet be a fraud as well.

    Yu Ziyang, no matter how he scored before, really proved himself this round.

    ...

    Yujia held her breath, standing completely still while the final results were pasted on the board outside.

    She didn't want to fail. She really didn't want to fail. She thought she did good enough in the past two rounds, yet in both times, her confidence was broken down when she realized that she didn't do as well as she hoped she would.

    She was okay with anything that wasn't a failing grade. As long as she passed the last round, she didn't care how if she created the best painting or not.

    Her nails bit into the palm of her hand.

    And then, the results were up and open for everyone to see.
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