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141 The Artist Learns How to Pain

    On the sixth day that Yujia stayed at Lingxin, she went over to her master's residence with a completed painting in her hand. She worked on it for quite a while, in comparison to some of the mountain paintings that she finished in an hour or two.

    This painting focused on something that Yujia hadn't worked much on before. Contrary to her usual vague scenic paintings, this one depicted a detailed, up-close branch of soft pink plum blossoms next to two jagged boulders. She drew it with inspiration to a large plum tree planted in the middle of the courtyard she stayed in. Though the flowers had long fallen off, she could still imagine how beautiful the sight would be when they bloomed. Thus, she decided to paint them.

    Over the past few days, she spent a lot of time in the outside air of her courtyard, observing the branches of plum and sketching them for reference. Then, a day ago, she began to paint once she was certain that she had enough of an understanding of the structure of the tree.

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    Yujia found that there were definitely a lot of benefits to staying at Lingxin, if one were to consider for the sake of art. Almost every single area that one could find at the academy was picturesque with all sorts of flowers and plants. Once Yujia was finished with mastering how to paint the plum trees, she would move on to learn how to paint all the other plant specimens. This made sure that she always had something to do. She would never run out of things to paint.

    The courtyard that Yujia resided in wasn't too shabby in other aspects either. It wasn't just all the greenery planted throughout that made the courtyard a marvelous place to live in. Everything else about it was also tended to in a careful manner, from the wood used to create the floors, walls, and ceiling, to the perfectly matching furniture and decoration within the rooms.

    In fact, perhaps the best of all, was that the entire courtyard belonged to Yujia. She didn't need to share it with anyone else. It was definitely small in size, but there were three separate rooms within the courtyard: a bathroom, bedroom, and overall living room. This was a definite upgrade in comparison to the South Courtyard that the Fourth Miss lived in, where all the functions of daily life was jammed into one small room.

    The bathroom was what Yujia found most stunning. In it was a large carved out bathing area on the elevated floor where water could be deposited. She tried it out when she first arrived, and it definitely felt more luxurious than anything she ever encountered so far. A wooden tub just couldn't compare to an almost pool-like structure existing for only her use. It was also nice to know that she could take frequent baths- it seemed like staying clean was the greatest luxury of all.

    It was also the existence of this structure also made Yujia a little curious with everything else in the courtyard. Somehow, everything seemed more... technologically advanced. The bathtub could hold hot water, even temperatures outside were chilly, for an extended amount of time. The chamber pots were attached to the floor and had a rudimentary "flushing" function, involving a small well of water built into the bathroom itself and a water scoop. The drawing desk in the living room had a drawer built underneath it to store supplies like brushes. The bedroom had a mini-fan that functioned like one in the modern world as long as one pulled on a string that made the blades in the fan spin.

    This certainly raised Yujia's suspicions. Everything was still crude enough to resemble lots of the objects in this time period- there definitely weren't televisions or electricity-powered things- except the ideas, such as a flushable toilet and a fan with spinning blades, mimicked some of the things that could be found in modern times. To any normal person living in this time period, things may seem a little peculiar, but not too attention-catching.

    Yujia, meanwhile, wasn't any normal person. To someone like her with a taste of modern life, there was an obvious sense of familiarity to the objects in this particular courtyard that her master gave her.

    Keeping her suspicions in mind, Yujia decided that it was yet another mystery to add on her list of things to solve. She wasn't sure what the reason was behind all of this, or even if there was any reason in the first place. Since she was heading over to her master to ask for critiques, perhaps it would be a good idea to ask him?

    Quickly, however, she paused these thoughts when she arrived at her master's courtyard. It wasn't too far from Yujia's courtyard, and she memorized the structure of the residences at Lingxin fairly well too.

    There were two main "villas", one where her master resided alone, and one where Ye Yunhe and his father lived. Yujia was organized to live with her master, since he had many empty courtyards. He lived in the Osmanthus Courtyard. Yujia was given the Plum Courtyard. There were two other courtyards: the Lotus Courtyard for other guests, and the Winter Courtyard for servants. Conveniently, her courtyard was situated adjacent to her master's, so it didn't take long for her to arrive.

    Now that all the matters involving her marriage ended and she was fairly stress-free, Yujia finally decided to spend some time with art. Along with the reawakening of her passion for art, Yujia also began to want to truly improve, for the first time in years. She created artwork not for the purpose of profit, but her own growth in skill. This was a sensation that felt almost foreign to her.

    Putting her painting down on the table between both of them, Yujia greeted her master briefly and showed him the piece that she had been working on. Hesitantly, she inquired, "How... do you feel about it?"

    Her master looked up at her, then moved his gaze down on the painting, staring at it for a long, tense moment. Yujia felt that her palms began to sweat as she waited for his response with both worry and a desire for praise. It would be a reassuring feeling for someone to acknowledge all of her hard work with this one painting.

    Instead of giving his instant opinion, her master asked back, "Did you paint the plum tree in your courtyard?"

    Yujia nodded.

    Seeing her response, he sighed, then stated his next words with a blank gaze.

    "This painting is trash."
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