80 A Possible Back-Up Plan For the Fourth Miss

    The statistics that came back from the sales Hui'er made in the market by the end of the day were pretty good. Even though she had to switch locations a few times to sell everything and did quite a bit of negotiation, the total profit ended up at a total of sixty-eight taels. Eleven paintings sold for three taels. Sixteen paintings sold for two taels. Only three paintings sold for just one tael.

    Making the paintings cost three taels each was actually a good idea for earning the maximum profit. If customers didn't like the cost, which was already pretty low, they could claim something along the lines of buying it for one tael, and Hui'er would just negotiate with them until they were willing to sell it for two. Hui'er also switched locations to right in front of Lingxin Pavilion halfway through the day, drawing more customers as well as making the paintings appeal more to others when they realized that the cost of these paintings were much cheaper than what they sold in Lingxin.

    With her profit being at sixty-eight taels, Yujia was seriously reconsidering her plan.

    Maybe selling generic mountain paintings wasn't a bad idea...? Or at least, it was a good back-up plan!

    Halfway through the day, when Hui'er was still selling, and Yujia could already see results, she went back to her room and started painting more generic mountain paintings. Yang Xiaoyi also appeared in the afternoon, eating lunch with Yujia and getting a few simple pointers for painting while she ate. Besides the art tips, they also talked about a lot of things that they hadn't before, such as favorite foods, gossip over some of the drama happening in other households, and Yujia's desperate plan to get out of her engagement.

    Towards the evening, Yujia was in a rather good mood despite everything that happened with that investor she tried to get to support her. She had sixty-eight taels, six more completed paintings, and much more confidence that she could get through all of this.

    Currently, Hui'er and her were back in their courtyard. Yujia was working on yet another painting when she heard the booming sound of fireworks outside.

    Oh-she forgot that there was a festival this evening. She leaned over to where Hui'er was, asking with a smile on her face, "What festival is it tonight? I'm not from the capital, so I don't know the traditions you all have."

    "It's the Returning Festival. I guess it really is only a festival celebrated in the capital," Hui'er replied.

    "What's it for?"

    Hui'er cleaned the copper basin in her hand and filled it with fresh water. "Since our Xiang Empire was created through conquests during war, the founding Emperor who won through capturing Luoyang moved the capital from Luoyang to Chang'an. When he returned to this city on this date, he was welcomed by the people as a hero. A few years after, there was another large battle, and our empire managed to win. The soldiers and generals returned to the capital on the exact same date by coincidence. Ever since then, on this date, us people in the capital would celebrate the return of the soldiers who protected us and won glory for us. There's fireworks, parades, floating lanterns, and just lots of fun. Soldiers get to visit home too."

    Seeing Hui'er describe the festival so fondly, Yujia tilted her head. "Have you ever been to one?"

    Hui'er froze in movement. "Well- I guess-" Her hands twisted the towel to squeeze the excess water in them out. "I used to go with the First Miss- when we were still on good terms. The Old Fourth Miss never liked going to these busy festivals though, so I haven't gone since then. All the traditions should still be the same though."

    "Do you want to go?" Yujia set the brush in her hand down with a faint smile. "We can go if you want."

    "Really?" Hui'er's eyes widened.

    "Sure. You sold me all those paintings after all. I can afford to use eight of those taels to buy what we want, and it's a good idea to do something fun and less stressful compared to all the stress I was going through before. It'll be a good experience"

    Hui'er beamed. "Then, thank you, Miss! I'll go and tell the kitchen that we're not eating dinner at home then."

    Yujia waved for her to go, and she hurried out. For a few seconds, Yujia stared at her own reflection in a mirror and the dull clothes she was wearing, recalling what the vendor said about how the soft pink dress would be something much more appropriate to wear to a festival.

    The vendor was right- if she wore clothes that were almost the color of robes that one would wear to a funeral, then surely that would draw negative attention.

    Thinking back to Xiaoyi and her extensive wardrobe of bright colored clothes, Yujia decided to head out to Xiaoyi's courtyard to borrow one of her robes. Surely, that wouldn't be too much of an inconvenience.

    When she arrived to Xiaoyi's room in the North Courtyard, only dim light shone through the paper windows, and the entire courtyard was rather quiet too. Yujia realized that unlike her courtyard where there were servants bustling in and out since that was where the kitchen and their rooms were located, the North Courtyard must've been quiet year-round. No wonder Xiaoyi frequently paid visits to other courtyards and had good relationships with others in the family.

    In a way, she must've been lonely too.

    Yujia gave a gentle knock on the door to Xiaoyi's room, being greeted with the face of one of Xiaoyi's maids who opened the door for her. "Fourth Miss," the maid spoke, "do you need something? My Miss isn't feeling too well today."

    "Oh, she isn't? What's wrong?" Yujia's eyebrows furrowed. Xiaoyi wasn't looking that bad during the afternoon.

    "She has a stomach ache-"

    The maid's words were cut when Xiaoyi called out from inside the room, "If it's big sister, let her in!"

    Obediently, the maid stepped aside, letting Yujia enter the room.

    For the first time, Yujia had a decent look at the place Xiaoyi lived in. It was definitely more furnished than her room and Yang Qingxia's room, decorated with a few vases of floral arrangements and lots of paintings on the walls. To the right of the room, there was a zither placed in the corner, which didn't look that touched, while in the center, there was a table with painting materials laid out on it. At the left was Xiaoyi's bed, where Xiaoyi was leaning against the pole, half of herself tucked in blankets.

    Yujia walked until she was next to her. She sat down next to her little sister on the bed and asked, "You have a stomach ache? That's not good."

    "It's not that bad," Xiaoyi replied with a faint laugh, "I think it might have been the pastries I asked A'ling to get for me after lunch. Maybe something was wrong with them, so now my stomach just hurts a little, and I feel nauseous at the sight or smell of food. I don't think it's too serious though- it should be fine after some sleep." She tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. "What are you here for, big sister?"

    "I was going to the festival tonight, so I wanted to ask if you wanted to come to. But seeing that you're sick, I don't think that would be a good idea." Yujia pressed her lips together.

    "That's definitely not a good idea. Especially with the festival going on, there's bound to be so much sights and smells of food out there today. You wouldn't want me to throw up on you, would you, sister?" Xiaoyi laughed again.

    "Look at you- you're sick and you still have the strength to make jokes?"

    Xiaoyi shrugged a little. "I don't want to just mope and act unpleasant, do I? That's going to make me feel even worse."

    A sigh of resignation came from Yujia. "Alright then... though, I do have another question. I happen to only have plain clothes, so I was wondering if I could borrow one of little sister's brighter ones for tonight?"

    "Of course!" Xiaoyi answered immediately.

    She gestured for her maid, who Yujia presumed to be A'ling, to the side, where a set of robes of peach blossom pink and embroidered lotuses hung on a rack.

    "I was going to wear this tomorrow," Xiaoyi explained, "but since big sister needs something to wear, you can borrow it for today. It should work for the festival. We should be about the same size, right?" Xiaoyi waved again, and A'ling brought over a few matching hairpins and a light green jade bracelet. "You should wear some matching accessories with this outfit too. It would ruin such a good set of robes if you don't accentuate it with these."

    Yujia looked at all the things that Xiaoyi was letting her borrow. A grateful smile appeared on her lips while she reached out to clasp Xiaoyi's hands. "Little sister is too nice to me."

    Xiaoyi grinned even more. "It's no big deal. We're sisters after all, and which sisters don't let each other borrow each other's things?"
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