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140 Finale of the Fourth Miss

    Five days passed.

    Throughout those five days, Yujia heard some news.

    Somehow, the marriage ceremony proceeded. This was the first piece of news she heard after asking around, and apparently, the public knew that the illegitimate Fourth Miss of the Yang Villa married over to the Yu Household as a concubine. She barely found any rumors about it at all, most likely because it was only a small ceremony of a concubine, not the true marriage of a wife. On that day, there had only been a red-clothed sedan going through the streets, and that was it. It was enough of an everyday sight as seeing a farmer sell his vegetables.

    Yujia was one of the only ones who seemed to take note and find the entire thing particular. After all, how was it possible for her to marry the Yu's Old Master when she was sitting in Lingxin right now, as single as can be?

    Nevertheless, the Yang Household seemed to play some trick that the public bought.

    Yujia also heard something just as peculiar- the betrothal of Yang Xiaoyi and Yu Zixu was put on hold. Originally, things were progressing normally- the Yu Household was preparing to send betrothal gifts over to the Yangs. However, before even those beginning stages could occur, it was publically announced that the betrothal would be cancelled, in a way. There was still the possibility of the two getting back together, but for now, the entire procedure was delayed, and both could go find other partners if desired.

    This timing definitely had something to do with Yujia's little marriage-failure. It had to. Yet without a proper source, Yujia still found it difficult to get any good information, and could only speculate about it.

    On the topic of marriages, the date for the marriage between Bo Zhiyuan, Yujia's first commissioner, and Zhou Luowei was also set to be a few days later. Because of this, Yujia didn't want to bother his younger brother and business co-owner, Bo Zhizhong- she would pay him a visit after his brother's marriage ceremony was over. Anyways, Yujia was still happy for Zhiyuan and Luowei. From what she saw when she sketched Luowei's portrait, the two were a very loving couple who were sure to have a successful marriage.

    Yujia passed those three days doing some miscellaneous things. She chatted with her master and senior brother at times. Other than that, she kept inside her residence most of the time to not draw too much attention- she didn't go anywhere public to prevent people who knew her identity from wondering what she was doing out here. She worked on creating some oil paints, sketched some brief sketches, and began work on a complicated painting.

    Life was very simple, and surprisingly stress-free. It was startling for Yujia to see how different it was to have the feeling of nothing really weighing her down. She didn't have to worry about paying rent or art supplies. She didn't have to worry about buying her way out of a marriage she never wanted.

    For now, all she could do was to draw and paint.

    So, that was what she worked on. Bit by bit, Yujia rediscovered the joy in creating art, not for any motive such as making money or improving an art supply, but just for fun. It was a joy that she lost for a long, long time and finally began to pick up again.

    By the end of those five days, Yujia finally decided to take a step out of the academy. This decision came along with some careful identity-masking through covering half of her face with a veil and keeping her head down to prevent too much attention from being drawn to her. She didn't know if people were still out looking for her in order to drag her to the Yu Villa.

    The first place that Yujia dropped by was Three Inks Shop. Upon seeing her, the clerk, Gao Yi, hurriedly rushed from behind the counter, carrying a large and seemingly heavy box. He greeted her with a deep bow, then explained in a rushed tone, "Boss, I haven't seen you or the other boss for so long. And- so many things have happened-" He nudged the box towards her. "It's hard to explain. You should open that up."

    Yujia did. She was instantly greeted with the sight of twenty shining golden taels, as gleaming as the sun's rays.

    At that very moment, she swore that her jaw nearly dropped to the floor.

    She stared at the gold taels for a very, very long period of time. Once she recollected her senses, she was only able to come up with some jumbled words afterwards. "Wha- what- where did this- all of this- come from?"

    Gao Yi explained everything carefully to her, from the Emperor's decree to the arrival of the reward.

    While he explained, Yujia ran her fingers across the perfectly molded taels, marvelling at the sight. She swore that her eyes teared up a little out of pure emotion. This many taels- it took her a month of stressed, busy work to barely come up with five gold taels, a feat she doubted was replicable in the future. Yet here were twenty gold taels sitting right in front of her, all of a sudden.

    And what was the reason behind these taels in the first place? The Emperor? How had the Emperor discovered her pencils?

    This felt too surreal.

    ...

    Yujia spent most of the morning and afternoon talking things out with Gao Yi and making arrangements to follow the Emperor's decree, as well as scheduling a meeting with Bo Zhizhong. This was definitely something she needed to talk to her co-owner with.

    When all of that work was said and done, Yujia left Three Inks with a significantly improved mood.

    If she knew that she had twenty gold taels- the equivalent of two-thousand silver taels- just waiting for her in the shop, she would've gone sooner!

    As she walked down the street, keeping her thoughts happily occupied with the idea of all the money and recognition, her eyes caught on a booth with a sign that labeled it "fortune-telling". An old man with a wispy white beard sat at a table at the booth, calculating the fates of any potential customers. Out of pure curiosity, Yujia found herself drawn to the booth. After watching one individual having his fate calculated and exclaiming how accurate and grateful he was, Yujia felt more intrigued by the fortune teller.

    It wouldn't hurt to see what this old man had to say about her past and future, did it? It would be entertaining if he managed to catch an idea of her transmigration journey as well.

    Thus, a moment later, Yujia sat herself down in front of the old man. Carefully, she unveiled her face and laid her palm on the table, as she saw the previous customer do.

    The old man peered at her silently, with narrow eyes, then looked down at her open palm. He stared at her palm for a particularly long time, all in complete silence.

    As the minutes ticked by, Yujia found herself growing a little nervous. With the previous customer she observed, the fortune teller only looked at his face and palm for a split second before coming to a conclusion. Why was he taking so long for her? Did he actually catch an idea of the supernatural forces in her life?

    Right when she began to have her doubts, the old man finally spoke.

    "Child, I am afraid I cannot tell you your fortune."

    Yujia drew in a breath, tensing up. "What... do you mean?" This was not an answer she expected.

    He sighed, shaking his head. "Your fortune is too contradictory. A face that tells for great ambition, power, and wealth, yet a palm of a short life ridden with disease and pain. And even more, your life has shifted too much against fate's will- I can only decipher so little from the mess I've been given. Throughout my entire life of calculating fortunes, I've only come across one other person like you. You have played the dangerous game of tampering with fate, child. In fact, it could be said that you have no fate- you have erased your destiny from the deities' plans."

    "That's..." Yujia shrunk back, her expression still with shock. So, she had no fate? She had no destiny?

    "This old fortune teller cannot do anything to tell your fortune, child." He sighed again, and waved his hand, signaling for her to leave, almost in a defeated manner.

    ...

    When Yujia returned to her room in Lingxin, she sat down at a table, poured herself a cup of tea, and stared blankly for a long time.

    It was as if the fortune teller's words made her suddenly recall the dream she had on the night she had her taels stolen. It was a strange dream, as strange as what the fortune teller told her.

    For a long time, Yujia simply thought about the dream, trying to make sense of the blurry details. She thought about the past as well, about her life in the Yang Villa as the Fourth Miss.

    The Fourth Miss- that was an identity she tried to hard to fit into. Except, at the same time, she also tried to keep herself separate from the standards of society. How was she able to accomplish these contradictory things? It would have been impossible. And where had masquerading as the Fourth Miss landed her? Nowhere good.

    Yujia paused, resting her chin against the palm of her hand.

    Could she even still call herself the Fourth Miss, now that the public knew the Fourth Miss as one who became a concubine? There was no point in still trying to fit into that identity, was there? Besides, did Yujia even

    want

    to become the Fourth Miss, one who had done so many condemning things in the past, who was so much different than the person Yujia was and the person she strove to be?

    Deep inside of her, Yujia knew the clear answer to all of those questions.

    Sitting there, in the room and all alone, Yujia made a silent decision to herself.

    Piece by piece, she peeled the identity of the Fourth Miss away from her heart. She may have shared the same body as the girl once known as the Fourth Miss of the Yang Villa, but their minds and souls were different. Too different. All along, she simply shouldn't have tried to morph herself into this alternate identity in the first place.

    And so, Yujia came to her silent decision, her final conclusion.

    Yang Yujia, the illegitimate Fourth Miss of the Yang Villa was no more. From now on, there was only the Yang Yujia that she knew from the very start, the Yang Yujia she had hidden deep within herself for all this time.

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    The thought of this brought a light smile to her lips, except she didn't spend too much time pondering about it.

    Instead, she set the cup in her hand down, picked up a brush, and began to work on completing her painting.
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