206 The Artist Awakens

    The moment he noticed his fingers around her hand, Zixu let go, drawing his arm back sharply.

    He stared at her face, which was leaned over so close to his. His eyes traveled over to a bowl and tray on the table, seemingly medicine. Taking in that detail, they also caught onto the water basin and damp cloth she had put by his bedside. Piecing this all together, he realized that Yujia was the one taking care of him all along.

    Where was his servant, Shen Li? Why was she here?

    Zixu blinked the final bits of blurriness away from his vision, feeling a headache appearing at the sides of his head. He squeezed his eyes shut, and when he opened them again, he noticed a bit of flour still dusted on Yujia's temple. The memory of the steamed buns she brought over for him surfaced in his thoughts. She said that she made them herself, so she must've missed this spot of flour when tidying up. The light colored flour was easy to miss against her fair skin.

    Instinctively, Zixu reached over with his hand. His movements were gentle as he brushed away the remaining flour from her temple.

    But then, the pain in his head increased sharply, causing him to jerk his hand back and press against his own head.

    The headache bothered him. The idea of lying in bed right now bothered him. What was he doing here? How did he get here?

    Right- he must've done something during Yujia's visit and fallen asleep. He should be studying right now-

    The blanks in Zixu's memories bothered him. The speed at which Zixu's thoughts traveled bothered him. They felt like they were moving too slow. The thoughts were all scattered too, some focusing on the dream, some focusing on the girl in front of him right now, some focusing on the fact that he needed to study. Overall, the sluggish and messy state of his mind bothered him. He couldn't quite think clearly- and absurdly, only this fact appeared quite clear to him.

    His eyes opened again after squeezing tightly once more. That was when he noticed Yujia sleepily blinking her eyes open.


    When Yujia woke up, Zixu was staring back at her. She flinched back, noticing that he had let go of her hand. This probably was the movement that woke her up.

    Standing up and straightening herself, she quickly started, \"I-\"

    \"You burnt yourself,\" Zixu interrupted her. As he slowly sat up, propping himself up against the poles of his bed, his eyes slid down to her right hand, which she had burnt earlier.

    She glanced down too. It faded a little more than before, but it still hurt like before. The ointment seemed to only work for a temporary moment. Based on the amount of light that passed through the windows, a few hours had passed. It would make sense that the cooling ointment medicine wore off a little.

    \"If you want to get technical, I didn't burn myself. You fainted on top of me and knocked the cup of tea over,\" she muttered.

    \"I did?\" Zixu sat a little taller. \"Apologies. It was not my intention to burn you.\"

    \"It's not a big deal,\" Yujia hastily dismissed.

    The scald did pain her a bit, but it was only a small burn. Whining about it would be childish.

    She walked over and got the tray with the bowl of medicine for him. The medicine had definitely cooled by now, but it was too chilly, not lukewarm, which would've been the ideal temperature. Zixu shouldn't be drinking chilled medicine, especially since he had caught a cold. She shouldn't have fallen asleep and should've given it to him when it was still warm.

    \"The medicine is all cold now,\" Yujia explained, \"I'll go get it warmed up.\"

    Zixu replied lightly, his voice lacking in energy, \"Where's Shen Li? Just send him to get it heated...\"

    Yujia assumed that Shen Li must've been the servant boy who was the only one Zixu allowed by his side. \"His sister was ill, so I told him to go visit her. He might not be back yet,\" she answered.

    \"Oh?\" Zixu paused, letting out a sigh as he said, \"His younger sister was always sickly...\" He raised his hand to his head rubbing his temples. But then he froze, looking up at her. \"Why did you stay behind to take care of me?\"

    She told him honestly, \"I figured I could at least do so much. You've saved my life, and I don't think I could possibly dedicate or promise you my heart and soul, so I'll just start slowly repaying it like this.\"

    \"Why can't you promise me that?\" Zixu remarked, his gaze and expression perfectly serious.

    Yujia stared at him.

    Despite knowing Zixu for a while already, she still couldn't tell if he was teasing or not. At times she could, but right now... she truly couldn't tell what was going on in his head.

    Except then, the corners of Zixu's lips twitched upwards, and Yujia deducted that this must've been a big joke. He liked messing with her too much.

    Picking up the tray with the medicine bowl, she turned and replied with a terse manner, \"You're spewing nonsense because of your fever. Go sleep more or something.\"

    While she headed towards the door in long strides, Zixu called out after her, \"Of course, Physician Yang.\"

    Hearing this, Yujia looked down, but she couldn't stop a smile from surfacing on her lips as she walked out.


    Zixu, slouching down more now that she was gone, coughed and leaned his head back.

    He wasn't usually like this. Something must've been wrong with him. Like she said, the fever must've been messing with his brain.

    Yet still, he couldn't stop grinning.

    A second later, he pushed those emotions out of his thoughts, slowly helping himself up, staggering over to his study desk and picking up the book he was studying before. He noticed that the desk was much more organized.

    She must've fixed that for him too.

    Shen Li knew not to touch Zixu's things, and while Zixu was usually irked when people did so, he supposed that it was time that this table needed organization. He couldn't pay it any attention when he was busy studying, so only now that she straightened it for him, he actually noticed how miserable the state of his desk was before.

    With the book that he needed now in his hands, Zixu shuffled back to the bed, covering himself in blankets yet again. He flipped through the pages of the book to find the place he left off while placing another hand over his head.

    Even he could tell that he had a fever.

    Things were definitely bad. A combination of stress, the lack of sleep, and others, must've led him to the state he was in now. Usually, he would've been more meticulous about these things, but the threat of not getting the top result in the imperial examinations was too much.

    He needed to get first place. It was his last chance. It was his only way out.

    With the examinations starting in two days, he couldn't risk not studying anymore.

    It was just two days. He could push himself that much. Besides, after taking that nap, he did feel a bit more refreshed.

    As long as he just held on for a little longer...

    Reading through the lines of text, the dream that he had during the nap interrupted his focus again. He usually never thought of those memories again. They were moments of the past. They were a distraction. They were worthless.

    Only with the events that occured in his dream reminding him of all of those things, Zixu was recalling those abandoned memories again.

    He set the book in his hand down. Staring straight ahead of him at blankness, Zixu settled his mind and calmed the chaos in his thoughts.

    He came to the conclusion that stubbornly hiding from those memories was a bad idea. Instead, he had learnt to just accept it as the past. He had learnt to move on.

    Or at least, he thought that he had moved on.

    Clearly though, with that dream, he hadn't. And thinking about it, he supposed that part of the reason behind his desire to do so well on the imperial examinations had to do with the past too.

    After all those years, he still hadn't completely dropped the matter.

    Somehow, the story that Yujia told him before in the forest- the one with the \"little artist\"- appeared in his thoughts. He had told her back then, at the end of the story, that she needed to move forward.

    Zixu sighed, his headache coming back to bother him.

    He was such a hypocrite.
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