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115 A Crowd Waiting For the Fourth Miss

    Perhaps Yujia should've known that she shouldn't have been so vocal in advertising her pencils if she didn't want a whole entire line standing outside her shop right when it was opening.

    But then again, crowds were good, weren't they?

    Based on the idea that she needed a few first customers, Yujia had ran into Lingxin since it was only a few steps away from the shop. Then, she went to both Half Moon and Ice Lily Pavilion to advertise her pencils. At first, she only told people she knew about the opening of her store, like Jiang Muyun who she saw in the Ice Lily Pavilion. Except then, the people she told spread her words to other people while she didn't notice. When others heard that the mystical "pencils" were about to be sold, they all rushed towards the direction of the shop.

    And so, when Three Inks Shop was ready to open with the mounted signs and paintings, Yujia peeked out the front door to see a very loud and chattering crowd waiting outside the shop, all wanting to go inside.

    She could recognize a few of them as students from Lingxin, but strangers composed a lot of the crowd too. They must've been normal civilians that were attracted to the loud noise of the crowd and wanted to take a look inside too.

    Yujia realized that, as always, the best advertisement was popularity.

    A few moments later, the clerk, a polite middle aged man who looked to be in his late thirties and named Gao Yi, stepped out of the store. Yujia and Zhizhong both exited through the back exit of the shop near the storage room, wanting to see the opening of the shop themselves.

    Gao Yi set the auspicious firecrackers on the store on fire. The string of firecrackers popped in loud noises. Then, he struck the gong in his hand once and proclaimed, "Welcome to the opening of Three Inks Shop! To welcome all of you, there is a fifty percent discount today, but only on the first hundred pencils sold. Come take a step inside and try them out."

    He stepped inside through the open doors, and waited behind the counter for customers to enter.

    In the next moment, Yujia witnessed her first perception of chaos.

    The crowd that had waited so long for Three Inks to open rushed in, squeezing through the front doors. Yujia expected that their anticipation may have been because of the students who wanted to see what pencils were truly like themselves, not because of the fifty percent discount. After all, most of them had a decent family background.

    When everyone who wanted to enter the shop entered, the interior of the shop was terrifyingly cramped, Yujia couldn't even see Gao Yi standing behind the counter below. Only the top of his hair showed above all the others trying to test out the pencils. All she could hear was the voices of people chattering, the sounds of scribbling, and the exchange of money.

    Even though it looked cramped from the outside, those inside the shop may not have felt that way. The shop itself wasn't the largest structure, but the ceilings were very elevated, giving a false sense of spaciousness.

    There were only ten pencils put out for demonstration. Originally, Yujia was a bit concerned with the issue of what if someone stole the demonstrative pencils. But after some thought, she determined that thievery wasn't that big of a dilemma to the shop though since the price of the pencils were all fairly cheap, so the loss of one wasn't that terrifying. An individual wouldn't feel the need to steal something that only costed a couple of coins either.

    Many people entered the shop empty handed and came out with a package of art supplies or a few pencils in their hands. Yujia and Zhizhong watched as this happened and casually chatted while the sun slowly traveled over the sky.

    Thirty minutes or so passed, and Zhizhong said that he needed to return to his villa, leaving Yujia alone to watch her store gain new customers.

    It was nice seeing so many people buy something she worked hard on. Yujia was sure that the chaos on the first day was probably something that wouldn't be replicated again in the future, once the students of Lingxin realized that albeit the multi-purposeful and flexible aspect of the pencil, it wasn't any "celestial" tool. She just hoped that the pencils would slowly spread as a product only used by art enthusiasts to the common people, so that they could incorporate it into their daily lives.

    A few moments later of observing the customers by herself, Yujia got bored and returned home.

    ...

    Towards the evening, Yujia returned to her store to see the profit of that day. Gao Yi was informed of the fact that she was the co-owner, and though he had a bit of skepticality at first, he was polite enough to not display it for too long. In an extremely proud manner, he presented one of the accounting books to her, showing that he had recorded every single purchase in a neat and organized manner. Her profit by the end of today was one-hundred and forty-one taels.

    This was an impressive number, considering that there was even a discount today. Based on Yujia's calculations, the pencils would sell at slower rates in the future since the Lingxin students who wanted to use pencils all bought them, but with this number as a baseline, Yujia felt confident that she would reach the five-hundred goal soon.

    While she observed the numbers happily, she noticed Gao Yi cleaning and arranging the shop to prepare for the next day.

    "Do you need help?" she asked out of pure courtesy.

    "No, Young Miss- I mean, Boss- I can handle this myself." He turned to her with a polite smile, then went back to organizing the shelves.

    From today's performance, Yujia determined that Gao Yi was both extremely polite and hard-working. She could find no faults in the things he did for the shop, and Yujia appreciated his attention to detail a lot.

    "How much does Young Master Bo, Boss Number Two, pay you?"

    Yujia thought that if Gao Yi continued working hard like this, he deserved a raise.

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    "Boss Number Two is very generous." Gao Yi scratched the back of his neck, responding, "He pays me a whole seventy silver taels a month."

    Seventy silver taels?

    Zhizhong was paying this man seventy taels for a month of work?

    This fact came as a surprise to Yujia. The Old Master only earned fifty taels as a profit a month. Three Inks Store only earned double that amount on its highest earning first day. But here Zhizhong was, paying a mere store clerk seventy taels?

    Heavens, all of the Young Master Bos had too much money on their hands, didn't they?

    Yujia pushed away all the thoughts of giving Gao Yi a raise. He didn't need one when his monthly salary was already so high. In fact, she would bet money on the fact that Gao Yi may just be working so hard because of his salary.

    Zhizhong sure knew how to earn the loyalty of other individuals with his money. And considering that he invested so much taels into the business, it was only right that in the future, he earned eighty percent of the profits.

    ...

    Yujia didn't withdraw the taels and chose to lock it in a secure box in the store instead. When she earned the proper amount, she would bring it back home and exchange it for her freedom.

    She had fifty taels from the paintings that she sold at Lingxin a couple days ago. Under the candlelight, Yujia counted the taels again, then parted the taels into two halves, with one half holding thirty taels and the other half holding twenty taels.

    In a cloth satchel, she swept the twenty taels into it and sealed it shut. Then, in a wooden box, she arranged the thirty taels in neat rows.

    "Hui'er," she told her maid sitting next to her, working on embroidery in the dim lighting, "I want to give these thirty taels to my mother."

    The first step to changing for the better was to become more grateful for the things she had. If it weren't for the Madam Liu that birthed the Fourth Miss, then Yujia would never inherit the body that she had today, giving her an opportunity at a new life. Thus, Yujia wanted to use this chance to meet the mother of her body and to give her a little something out of pure respect. Kind acts like these would always be rewarded, wouldn't they?

    Yet instead of seeing Hui'er agree, Yujia was met with Hui'er dropping the embroidery on the table. She noticed that her maid's hands were shaking, oddly, all of a sudden.

    "No- Miss- how about I go and give her the taels instead?" she replied with a shaking voice that she tried to steady.

    Yujia's eyes narrowed. "What's wrong?"

    "Nothing-"

    "Something's wrong."

    "There's nothing- really-"

    Yujia looked at Hui'er, her jaw tightening. "Hui'er, it's clear that you're lying. Now tell me, what's wrong with me paying a visit to my birthmother and giving her a gift?"
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