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188 An Artist’s Infiltration, Phase Two

    Zixu took note of everyone present in the room.

    Behind Madam Zhang were two maids- obviously her personal maids. The Fifth Miss, Yang Xiaoyi, was summoned quickly enough, and she was followed by her own maid as well. The Old Master didn't seem to be in the villa- Madam Zhang later explained that he was out at a meeting. The First Miss had no reason to come, so she wasn't present either.

    Otherwise though, these servant numbers were perfect. Everyone that Zixu really needed to be present arrived in the room.

    Considering that his engagement with the Fifth Miss was canceled, Zixu did find the situation that his Junior Sister asked of him to perform to be a bit difficult. But as long as he didn't make things awkward, he was confident that it wasn't going to be.

    He smiled warmly, directing his attention at the Fifth Miss. "I apologize for bothering Miss Yang, but I really did have a few things I wanted to ask about from our conversation last time. I painted quite a few things since then, but all this time, I thought about what you told me about enhancing the Bone Method. It's given me quite a bit of inspiration."

    Hearing this, Yang Xiaoyi's eyes lit up. She smiled back at him, exclaiming, "Oh, that!"

    Like Zixu expected, the topic of art broke down barriers. Though this Fifth Miss wasn't too skilled in painting, she had a decent interest. Most times, conversations about shared interests took away the clumsy, uncomfortable parts of conversation that Zixu never enjoyed having. This situation was no different.

    "It's just a technique I read on an old book I found in the villa," she explained eagerly, "I didn't know that Young Master Yu would find it so interesting. If you would like, I- we- could gift it to you."

    Truthfully, in his memory of the events that happened, his past conversation with Yang Xiaoyi wasn't too interesting. He became quite bored of it halfway through, in fact. But Zixu had to fulfill the request of his Junior Sister, so he listened right now with imitated enthusiasm.

    "Speaking on the topic of gifts," Zixu cut in, "I just remembered that I brought a gift but left it in the carriage."

    "Did you really?" Madam Zhang leaned forward, folding her long, slender fingers in her lap. "That is too kind of Young Master."

    "Yes, I could not come here empty-handed, could I?" Zixu let out a laugh, turning to his two servants behind him. "Both of you, go fetch the gift from the carriage for me."

    At the "both of you" part, a hidden message was implied to one of the servants, which Zixu explained part of the plan to earlier.

    If he told them that only one was allowed to go, then the servant who Zixu let in on the plan would stay behind. If he emphasized that both were supposed to go, then while one servant went to fetch the gift, the other would take a detour and go alert Yujia, who was waiting in the servant's courtyard, which was also the courtyard that the Fourth Miss used to live in.

    This part with a code was incorporated into their plan at the last minute, under the proposal of Zixu, since Zixu needed a way to check for if the servants who Yujia needed to avoid were all away. They should've all been distracted by his sudden visit to the Yang Villa. On the chance that the plan had any mishaps, he didn't plan on sending a messenger to her, so Yujia would leave when she had waited for enough time. This added an additional level of security to their plan.

    Sure enough, both servants left after hearing his order. Zixu smiled his usual close-lipped smile, then turned the conversation back to painting again.

    ...

    Yujia was still sweeping the yard when a male servant, dressed in different color robes than the usual servant in the Yang Villa, walked in hastily. She recognized him as the one servant Zixu incorporated into their plan. Her eyes met his and she rushed forward, clutching the broom tighter.

    "Excuse me," she asked loudly, making their conversation seem normal to anyone who may be listening, "you don't look like you belong. Are you lost?"

    The servant nodded deeply, replying, "Yes, I am. I came to your villa as a part of the Yu Household. My young master wanted me to get a gift, but I somehow became lost. Could you direct me back?"

    "Of course." She smiled tightly and gestured her hand forward. With the broom as a prop, she led the servant down. When they walked further enough away, he nodded silently, then turned back, returning to where he belonged.

    His message had been conveyed to her, though not a single word was said.

    It was safe to progress into Phase Two.

    With the Fifth Miss and her courtyard being conveniently close to the path that Yujia chose to lead the servant back on, she dropped by that courtyard first. Sure enough, all according to plan, Xiaoyi's courtyard was rather empty except for a few general cleaning servants. Yujia blended right in.

    She grabbed a basin and a rag, which rested over a banister to dry, switching it with the broom. No one took an extra look at her when she entered Xiaoyi's room.

    Yujia searched through everything quickly but thoroughly, finding nothing suspicious at all. When a few minutes later, she walked out, she had no new discoveries and only a growing sense of guilt. Even though she knew that she had to take such actions for her own wellbeing, it still felt very wrong to snoop around the personal belongings of other people.

    She did feel relieved that like Hui'er, Xiaoyi had a lower chance of being the culprit. But this sort of relief, coupled with a wave of guilt, was mostly unpleasant.

    It wasn't likely that she would have the abilities to search the First Miss's courtyard, so Yujia settled with the second next best, and her final target.

    Madam Zhang's room.

    Hurrying to the East courtyard, the residence of the Madam, the Old Master, and the First Miss, Yujia blended in with everyone as easily as her experience in both courtyards. It turned out that overall, the Yang Villa's security was very lax, since Yujia had not been noticed or questioned a single time. Nevertheless, this made sense, since it wasn't a very big or grand villa overall.

    Once she stepped in Madam Zhang's room, Yujia immediately began searching, shuffling through all the drawers, cabinets, and boxes. After looking through each item, she was sure to set it back to how it was before, completely destroying all evidence that someone had just shuffled through all of them.

    Ten or so minutes passed of detailed searching, but Yujia was unable to find anything incriminating. Anything and everything seemed normal, with nothing off about them. She looked through every possible nook and cranny, but no strange items were uncovered. None at all.

    Yujia surveyed through the room one more time, sighing. Her eyebrows were tightly furrowed, and she wondered if she was doing something efficient, accurate, purposeful, and morally correct by looking through everyone's belongings. Would she really find the answer she needed by doing this?

    ...

    Midway through the conversation, Zixu let out an involuntary cough, drawing the attention of Madam Zhang.

    Her eyes fixed sharply on him and\ she asked, "Young Master Yu, you've coughed a couple times already. Are you sick?"

    Zixu shook his head swiftly, rejecting the idea. "No, I am not ill."

    "Are you sure?" Madam Zhang glanced at the servant behind her. "Here, even if you're not sick, if your throat is not feeling well, I have a specially imported honey in my room. It is usually useful with things like sore throats. Anning, will you go fetch it for me?"

    Zixu's expression immediately shifted, his jaw tightening and his head tilting. This was not good. Not good at all. Find authorized novels in Webnovel,faster updates, better experience,Please click www.webnovel.com  for visiting.

    "Madam, it is truly alright. I do not need it and cannot accept such a precious gift."

    He put in all his effort to express the idea that he didn't need it. She shouldn't give it to him. And more importantly, she shouldn't send anyone in her room right now. What if Yujia was there?

    Yet Madam Zhang, who could not possibly know the inner thoughts of Zixu, took it as just etiquette. Plenty of people denied their desire for so-and-so gift when offered presents, but who didn't like gifts? They rejected it just to be polite, but in reality, they actually wanted the item and expected that after a few exchanges of humble words, the gift would still eventually land in their hands. Madam Zhang thought that it would be the same case with Yu Zixu.

    Thus, she waved her hand dismissively, urging. "You already brought such a nice statue gift for the Yang Household. It would be wrong for me to not give you back anything in return, on behalf of the household. Honey may not be much, so I hope that Young Master does not scoff at what I can offer."

    "It's really unnecessary-"

    Zixu tried to explain, but Madam Zhang stopped him again.

    "That's enough. If honey is not to Young Master's taste, then you should still try it out before determining. Perhaps it can truly help to heal your cough."

    ...

    Yujia was about to exit Madam Zhang's room when she heard footsteps approaching.

    She froze.

    The door creaked open.
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