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105 Yes, The Fourth Miss Paints

    Luckily, Yujia didn't have to say anything, since Yunhe cut in for her. "It's not her fault. It was my bad for giving her the wrong time to arrive."

    "But even so," the orange-robed person went on, "are you sure she's your

    junior sister

    and not just some younger sister we never knew you had? Noble Ye, it's alright if you let your younger sister join in on our conversation if she really wanted to see the painting world."

    The group laughed. Yujia's fingers dug into her palm, but she kept a steady expression, unwilling to show the person who was just mocking her the satisfaction of seeing any reaction from her.

    Yunhe opened his mouth to say something again, but another person who sat right next to the orange-robed person spoke first. "That's enough, Cixuan. Since Senior Brother Ye refers to her as junior sister, I'm sure she's his- and my- junior sister as well. I saw her yesterday, and even the school head acknowledged her. Unless you're saying that my master is wrong?"

    His words were quiet, but they were enough to make the orange-robed person- Cixuan- shut up.

    Yujia took a look at the person who just spoke. He had a hushed demeanor and a relaxed posture as he looked at Cixuan with half-lidded eyes. It almost seemed like he was tired with the antics of the young man next to him, and the energy that he radiated was the complete opposite of the energy Cixuan gave off.

    Whoever he was, Yujia was grateful that he spoke for her.

    Yunhe added, "Yes, like Junior Brother said, she is my junior sister with no doubt. We share the same master, Master Yue. So, Noble Cao, I'm afraid your words are wrong." He inclined his head and looked at Cao Cixuan with a faint smile.

    Yujia took this time as an opportunity to introduce herself. She stepped a foot forward, clasped her hands and saluted the crowd as if she were a man. "Fellow enthusiasts of painting, hello. I'm the disciple of Master Yue, Yang Yujia."

    "So, it's Junior Sister Yang," the young man who quieted Cao Cixuan a moment ago nodded at her with a smile.

    "Senior Brother is...?" Yujia tilted her head, asking.

    "Jiang Muyun." He clasped his hands.

    Yujia smiled. "Senior Brother Jiang, then."

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    Two others, both of them her senior brothers under Elder Ye who didn't seem to share the same fiery attitude as Cao Cixuan, introduced themselves to her, giving Yujia a few names and faces to memorize.

    After all of the introductions, Yujia stepped back to her spot. There still wasn't a seat for her to sit at, so Yujia could only stand. Yunhe noticed this fact and leaned in, saying with a quiet voice, "When a servant comes by, I'll ask them to bring you a chair. There should be one coming around soon."

    Yujia gave him a grateful smile. "Thank you, Senior Brother."

    There still wasn't much conversation, so Cao Cixuan, who seemed like the most vocal one in the group, spoke up first. "So, how did you do it? How did you get to become a disciple of Master Yue?"

    His question was clearly directed towards her. It seemed mostly like a very direct question of pure curiosity, so Yujia turned to him with a calm expression and answered, "With my painting skills, of course. My master appreciates talent regardless of things like gender. He saw my work after one of the exams Lingxin held, and since he thought they were decent, he decided to take me in as a disciple."

    "The exam?" Cixuan raised an eyebrow. "Don't they only allow men to take it?"

    "Ah." Upon hearing the exam mentioned, her eyes instantly darted in the direction of Yu Zixu, who was looking in her direction too. Their gazes met for a second, and then Yujia pulled her eyes away, fixing them back on Cixuan before anyone noticed anything. "I- disguised myself as a man."

    Yujia could see the expressions amongst the crowd shift into incredulity.

    "A man?" Cixuan repeated after her with a screeching laugh. He leaned forward, echoing again, "A man? Now then, Young Miss, that sure is something new. Even if you disguised yourself in the opposite gender, Lingxin still wouldn't let just

    anybody

    in. What identity did you take on? Or did you sneak in?"

    Yujia looked back at Zixu, searching his face for answers. Would it be wrong for her to admit that she disguised herself as his brother? Would that bring him shame? Even though Yujia didn't know him well, she knew how anxious she would be if someone publicly embarrassed her, and she wasn't sure if the things that she knew were things that would embarrass him.

    Zixu only looked at her with a blank expression that morphed into a simple smile, not revealing any of his thoughts.

    "I-" Yujia said, hesitation laced through her words, "I disguised myself as-"

    "- My younger brother."

    Before she could decide on what to say, Yu Zixu answered for her. The heads of the crowd turned to look at him, and he scanned his eyes around the room, noticing that all of their attention was now fixed on him.

    With a slight smile, Zixu elaborated on his previous words. "She disguised herself as my younger brother, the Second Young Master of the Yu Family."

    "Oh?" Cixuan was the first to respond, as always. "Noble Yu, I didn't think you were involved in all of this too! So you know Miss Yang already, since you knew about her disguise?"

    "I didn't find out that she chose to disguise herself as my younger brother until I saw her at the exam." He laughed, though Yujia was sure that the laugh sounded empty. "It was an odd coincidence that I met her, and certainly an amusing experience."

    Cao Cixuan grinned and clapped his hands. "Interesting, interesting, interesting." He spun to face Yujia. "This is all too interesting!" Throwing a glance over to Jiang Muyun who was sitting by his side, he exclaimed, "Brother Jiang, you were right! Coming to this convention definitely is a lot more fun than I expected!"

    Muyun looked at Cixuan with a slanted gaze, then sighed. He seemed disappointed that this "Brother Cao" of his was more interested in the convention for the wrong reasons.

    Practically sitting at the edge of his seat now, Cixuan asked Yujia, "Then, last question, I promise! Shouldn't a pretty young miss like you be home embroidering or something? Why are you stepping into painting, a man's world?"

    Yujia's eyelid twitched.

    As much as she hated to admit it, Cao Cixuan had some truth to his words. He did seem a little too eager and personal with his questions, but this was likely the mindset that most, if not all, men had in this time period. The proof included all the conversations she had up until now with other people. Cixuan was just a little more vocal than others in expressing his thoughts.

    "I used to enjoy embroidery," she responded, "but I got bored of it soon. Painting suits my talent more. And so, here I am now."

    "Oh." This seemed like an answer to dry and boring for Cixuan's taste. He leaned back in his chair, the enthusiastic grin on his face vanishing.

    After Cixuan finished with his questions, no one else had anything to say. The pavilion fell quiet again.

    Or, quiet, that was, until Yujia went to the center of the pavilion where a desk and a few scrolls of paper rested.

    "How about this," she proposed, "since some of you may be curious about why I'm here, why don't I prove it right now? Do you all want to see me paint?"
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