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106 Speed Painting and the Fourth Miss

    Cixuan instantly sat back up, yelling, "Yeah!"

    Other people also quietly murmured their assent in varying manners, but like always, Cixuan was the loudest.

    Hearing their agreement, Yujia set her hands on the table, taking a look at all her supplies. Besides the numerous sheets of paper, the long desk also had black ink already grinded from the inkstone and a few different brushes. To the side were more supplies since it was likely a table set up for numerous people to paint at the same time, but Yujia doubted that she needed more than the few items that were right in front of her.

    She picked up the widest brush she could find, dipping it in more diluted black ink and moving it across the page in one bold stroke. Today, she supposed that she would challenge herself by painting as quickly as she could to see what would come out of it.

    Both of her hands moved fast, with one switching between brushes and the other sweeping across the page to outline the branches of a tree against a gray sky. The branches of the tree interlocked between distant mountains, making the perspective of the piece a bit tricky as neither the tree nor the mountains seemed like they belonged in front of one another. No leaves rested on the bare branches of the tree, and a single lonely bird took flight away from it.

    Yujia wanted to make the painting more lively, but she could only muster enough to draw what she did. It wouldn't feel right to add leaves or more trees, just like how it wouldn't feel right to draw a couple more birds. They would only take a few extra strokes of her brush, but for some reason, she just couldn't bring herself to do it.

    Finally, she finished her painting with a few strokes of a brush with only water, diluting the edges of the painting and fading everything to a hazy fog. It only took her eight or ten minutes most to create the piece in front of her.

    As she stepped back to look at her work, Yujia knew that something looked off. The crooked tree depicted as the center focus of her painting barely held any life within it. The single bird taking flight looked like it was ready to jump off a cliff and give up on its right to fly. Even the usual mountains that she thought she knew how to paint lacked their grandeur and mystery, only looking dreary and distant.

    This painting of scenery was nothing like her generic mountain paintings. The lifeless aspect of the painting didn't come from the fact that she didn't put thought or emotion into her painting. In fact, Yujia wanted it to look good so that she could impress everyone.

    Except, instead of creating a flourishing painting of nature, Yujia seemed to only capture a crippling sense of melancholy. There was no pattering rain or dark, gloomy colors in her painting, yet it still somehow managed to convey the same sense of wistful sorrow.

    Before she took too long to look at her painting, Yujia noticed the others in the pavilion standing up to take a look at her work too. Many of them made comments as they surrounded the table with observant eyes.

    "Look at how the mountains fade! I saw her paint it in person, but it's still startling how smooth the transition between ink and blank paper is."

    "How did she manage to create something like this so quickly? I don't think I like the way the tree is structured, but I wouldn't be able to create anything like this under ten minutes..."

    "The mist and the mountains are a good combination! I've always drawn my mountains with the tips in clouds because I was afraid that too much cloud and mist would overwhelm the work, but looking at this, I'm starting to think otherwise. How can one combine all these elements yet prevent each element from overwhelming the other at the same time?"

    While many people made quiet comments, Yujia noticed that Cixuan was silent. She expected him to make some sort of remark on the painting once she finished, but ever since Yujia completed the painting, he hadn't said a single word. She had no idea what was wrong with him, but he just stood there, amongst the crowd, staring wordlessly at her painting.

    Bo Zhiyuan was one of the many who stood up to look at her work. He had to incline his head since he stood from the opposite side of the table, but after briefly looking at the painting, he said to her, "Miss Yang truly is talented. To create something so magnificent within a brief moment of time is incredible, but then again, I've witnessed your speed and skill at painting in person, so this comes as no surprise to me."

    Yujia thought back to the times where she painted him a scene of two roosters just to prove that he should commission her and smiled. "I'm flattered that Young Master Bo still remembers my paintings."

    "Of course I do. I still hang them up on my wall," he nodded.

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    After giving Zhiyuan another flattered smile, Yujia looked over in the direction of Yu Zixu. She noticed something interesting about him. When others got up to look at her painting, they mostly stood there and observed it for a while. On the other hand, Zixu simply stood up, took a glance at her painting, then sat back down.

    She wanted to know what he thought. Based on his spectacular results in all three rounds of Lingxin's examinations, he must've known a lot about painting. But since he barely spent more than two seconds looking at her painting, did it mean that her painting was good or bad? Most of the feedback she heard from everyone chattering about her work was positive so far, but she didn't know if that was accurate or not.

    Their eyes met again, and Zixu nodded in her direction with a smile. Stiffly, Yujia put on another smile, nodding back at him. And then, he turned and took interest in a cup of tea by his side, no longer meeting his eyes to hers.

    Yujia sighed, turning to look back at the other people observing her work, hearing a couple more compliments. Yunhe and Jiang Muyun both talked briefly with her about her painting, giving her their thoughts and opinions which Yujia carefully listened to.

    A few more moments passed, and most of the people sat down after voicing their thoughts. Only a couple of people remained standing there, still having a few things to observe with the painting Yujia briefly came up with in ten minutes. Out of the few, Cao Cixuan was one of them.

    He continued staring at the painting, almost without blinking, before he spun to face Yujia, his eyes shining with excitement.

    "This!" He pointed at her painting, his words frenzied, "It's the greatest thing I've ever seen before! How much will you sell it for?"

    Ah?

    How much would she

    sell

    it for?

    That was the one question that Yujia never expected to hear from Cao Cixuan.
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