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90 The Fourth Miss Greets Her Master

    Yujia didn't think that all the nonsense she came up with emotion in work happened to directly correlate with one of the Six Elements that she had no idea about up until now, where she just learned what the first principle was.

    Ye Yunhe was left rather wordless too, only blankly staring down at his feet after hearing his master's words. He didn't seem to want to argue anymore, finally realizing the mistakes in his beliefs and knowing when to back down from an argument.

    His master left a few reassuring words to him though. "Don't worry too much. You're still young and have plenty of time to learn." His following words came out more like a mutter, "Though, when I was your age, I already comprehended what you're currently unable to..."

    "Master!" Ye Yunhe heard the mutter, his face distorting. The advice would've been perfect if his master didn't add on the other sentence, but because of the disparaging remark, all sense of assurement was taken away from his words.

    "Well, your soon-to-be junior sister has talent that I can recognize, so from now on, I don't want to hear more of your complaints about getting her as a sister, okay?"

    It seemed like Ye Yunhe wanted to comment on something else- perhaps over the fact that Yujia didn't even know the basic principles of painting- but he held back his words through biting his lips.

    Seeing that their argument had mostly died down, Yujia started, "So... how does this work? Do I just call Elder as master, and call it a day? Or is there an elaborate ceremony?"

    The old man waved his hand and shook his head. "I'm not into all those complicated altar and ceremony things. Simply kneel and bow three times, and then we'll be done." He looked around. "Oh, and if you don't feel like this entire process is sacred right now, the current pavilion you're in is the Lingxin Pavilion that the school is named after, and it's the place where I taught the Emperor how to paint, so it's pretty blessed and sacred enough."

    Yujia's jaw dropped.

    This was the Lingxin Pavilion? This was where the

    Emperor

    learned how to paint?

    No wonder the student from before was not permitted to enter. It must be that only certain permitted individuals were able to step even

    near

    the pavilion.

    And then... this person who she was about to call her master was once the teacher of the Emperor?

    A background like his was too epic to be considered normal. But yet, here he was, selling colored ink in the marketplace and trying to get her to become his disciple...

    Yujia couldn't believe that she even met someone like him, much less to say that she was about to become his disciple. After all, if he was also the master of the Emperor and not just his teacher, didn't that make her and the Emperor senior and junior siblings?

    Relationships like that were too crazy to fathom.

    A few moments of silence passed, and then Yujia shakily began, "Before I call you master and all that though, I think we need to talk about the entire situation with my invention and funding first."

    "Sure. What do you need to say?" The old man pressed his mouth into a straight line.

    "This entire master-disciple idea sprouted because I needed an investor for my invention, right?"

    He nodded.

    "There's an acquaintance of mine that I met later that night at the festival, and he truly wants to invest too. I agreed to him, but after thinking about it, I really don't think that my invention needs two investors to put their money into it. So, to help my acquaintance out since he has personal reasons for why he needs to invest, I don't think that Elder should invest in my pencils anymore."

    "Ah." Hearing that, a downcast expression fell on the old man's face. "If that's the case, you don't need me as a master anymore, do you?"

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    "No- no, no," hurriedly, Yujia explained, "I thought long about it, and I truly think that I need a master to help me improve in the arts, since I still don't know much."

    The lie came out of her mouth so easily.

    She didn't want to improve in art. She was simply using it as a way to save herself from the entire situation. Thus, she didn't want the old man as a master either to help her improve either. She just wanted to make strong connections that would surely help her out later in life and also gain access to selling things in the Lingxin marketplace, hopefully, if she begged her master enough. That would make her life very easy.

    "Ha, then all's good now?"

    "I'm still unsure, though..." Yujia cast her eyes down, the bits of confusion in her heart forcing her to ask a question that she didn't have the answer to. "Why does Elder want me as a disciple so much? Surely, there are so many more talented students in Lingxin, and you already have a very talented disciple!"

    Yujia gestured to Ye Yunhe, whose eyes widened when she said that he was talented. Why would she call him talented when one second ago, she called his work worthless?

    Her question seemed to bring out something from the old man, replacing all his previous faces with a mixed expression. It was nothing like the fury that she had seen when he was arguing with Ye Yunhe, nor was it like his delight that she had seen when talking about the matters of master and disciple with him.

    There was a new emotion surfacing in his eyes, a mixture of some sort of guilt and nostalgia, emotions that shouldn't have been combined yet managed to blend together in a glossy shade. His eyes reflected so many memories of the past, as if a single question from her managed to uncover decades of his past history.

    "I'll be honest with you," the old man said, his words slow, "your paintings remind me of the work of my late wife, the one individual who is the most important to me, and the one individual who I foolishly pushed to her limit. Not long before she passed away, we got into a... fight. She burned all of her paintings. I don't have a single work of hers left. All that remains are blurring pictures in my mind. When I saw the painting you created in the third exam, it made me think of one of her last paintings... and when I saw you again yesterday, I was determined to preserve your work when it reminds me so much of the things she made."

    He took a deep breath. "That is the first reason for why I want you, as my disciple, because surely, as my disciple, you're willing to let me keep some of your work, right?"

    Upon hearing that, Yujia's breath caught with emotion. She didn't expect for someone like this elder to have an explanation with so much history behind it.

    Shaking her head, she replied, "There's no need for that! I'll just give you my paintings. For free."

    "I'm grateful that you're willing to show such kindness, child, but it's not just that. The second, more important reason, is that my wife had always wanted things that society would never give her. I didn't understand her, but once she was gone, I began to see what she was talking about. It's not just your work that reminds me of her, but your dreams too. I don't want to see you ending up like how she did- with society breaking who she was. If I were your master, then I would have the power to support you, to help you along your way, and to help her fulfill the goals she never managed to."

    "I-" Yujia looked away.

    She began to feel guilt for her previous thoughts about using the old man just so that she could sell things in the marketplace while he had such noble reasons for trying to get her to become his disciple. At that moment, Yujia decided that she would become his disciple, not just because of the benefits it would bring her, but so that she could return the sincerity that he had given her.

    Except, he continued.

    "I can understand if you don't want to accept me as a master. That's fine. We barely know each other, and the relationship between master and disciple is not an average one. But here are my reasons- and perhaps that would sway your choice." He sighed and smiled softly.

    Right after his words ended, Yujia set the box of pencils in her hands down to the side and kneeled, her knees thudding against the floor of the pavilion. Then, she folded her hands, bowing.

    Once.

    Twice.

    Thrice.

    She looked up, her hands folded out to him. And solemnly, she called out, "Master."

    Her master smiled and reached over to help her up.
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