155 Wine Purchase of the Artis

    Yujia slung in the shop without pausing a single moment, immediately scanning her eyes over the shelves of wine behind the front counter. When the owner saw her, he focused his gaze and asked, "Miss, can I help you?"

    "Don't you sell wine? Give me the strongest wine you have."

    "The strongest...?" Along with his wide eyes, his eyebrows slowly rose up and up more, wrinkling his forehead. "But Young Miss... that's... uh..."

    "Money is not a problem. Give me the strongest wine you have," Yujia repeated.

    The owner hesitated for a second moment, but after that moment of thought, he turned around, running his hand along the shelf until he picked a large jug of wine towards the top. Pulling it down for her, he placed it on the counter between them and described, "This Plum Blossom Wine is the most popular treasure of my shop. Its flavor is both sweet and tart, and even a sip is enough to keep the aroma of plum in your tastebuds for hours on end."

    "Great. How much, then?"

    "Thirty taels for a small jug."

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    "That expensive?" Yujia recalled the last time she had a drink, only a few weeks ago. Back then, the rice wine was low in alcohol content, but at least she could drink jugs and jugs on end and only spent ten or so taels. Thirty for a small jug seemed like an extreme amount.

    "Why, didn't I say that this was a treasure of my shop?" The man narrowed his eyes, placing his two hands on the jug. "If you're not willing to pay this much, then you should choose another wine."

    "You said that this is the strongest wine you have?"

    "Of course. I would not lie to you. A small jug is more than enough to get you drunk, if that's... what you desire, Young Miss."

    "I'll take it."

    Yujia shuffled in her pocket, pulling out her satchel of taels and dumping most of it out to the man. "That should be enough."

    He snatched the taels over to his side on the table, carefully counting each one before nodding a confirmation. Reaching underneath the counter, he pulled out another, much smaller jar. Opening the fabric covering of the large jug and using a scoop, he dipped out of the jug three times, which was enough to fill up the small jug. A red fabric was tied over Yujia's jug as a cover. He handed it to her, a satisfied smile on his face. "May Young Miss enjoy her wine."

    Yujia took the jar from him, heading out the moment she had it in her hands.

    For some reason, Yu Zixu was still waiting outside.

    "I thought you left already," she said, "Why are you still here?"

    Zixu tilted his head. "I thought you were going to drink inside the tavern. It wouldn't be safe for a girl like you to do so alone."

    Yujia gave a dry laugh, rotating the jar of wine in her hand. "Nope. I'm heading back to Lingxin to get drunk and forget all my worries."

    She began to walk. Zixu followed behind.

    "What worries do you have?" he asked.


    She didn't know why he was still walking with her. Shouldn't he have better thing to do? Wasn't he discussing things with Bo Zhiyuan? Yujia faintly recalled hearing him mentioning something of that sort. With the thought of Bo Zhiyuan, Yujia thought back to Zhizhong. She wondered if he washed that cat-face she drew on him with ink immediately after returning home. She also almost expected to run into him in the Bo Villa, but she didn't see him at all.

    Perhaps the ink on his face smeared even after he attempted to wash it off, so he was stuck in his own courtyard.

    At the thought of that, Yujia couldn't help the corners of her lips tugging upwards. It was a pleasant distraction to think about the earlier, happier parts of today.

    Glancing over and seeing Zixu by her side brought her back to reality, the side of life with less distractions and more cold, harsh facts.

    There were a couple of reasons why Yujia didn't enjoy seeing Yu Zixu. They key one was that he reminded her of too many things. She appreciated the effort he put into helping her despite reasons she didn't know of. But regardless of that, there were more things that tilted the scale to more discomfort. He looked like people of her past. His voice and words sent her back to darker memories. His calm smile made her unnerved.

    Except then, Yujia recalled one sunny afternoon. She was sitting with Zixu in a pavilion. It was the moment after the painting convention she went to a while back. At that memory, the two of them talked about many things. And in that memory, she recalled that he wasn't smiling.

    Just then, Yujia realized that though Yu Zixu enjoyed wearing that mask of a calm smile, there were many moments where he was not. And in those moments, there was no one who understood her quite as much as he did. He was not just someone who constantly helped her, but the one who always listened to her the best.

    Though Yujia wanted solitude, wouldn't it be better if she could just put all her feelings out?

    She paused in her steps. Somewhere in the midst of all her thoughts, they had arrived at the front arch of Lingxin. Yu Zixu took a step back, bowing. "Miss Yang. I'll be leaving now."

    She could've just said "

    Alright. Thank you for sending me,

    " or "

    Have a good evening

    ," but Yujia didn't want to say either of the two.

    And though she had not taken a sip of alcohol yet, some part of her felt blurred. She reached out, her hand grazing his sleeve.

    "Wait. Stay."
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