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    "I buried her outside of the capital, at the top of a mountain. I figured that with the open sky, the birds, and the trees, she could finally be free again. It was the last thing that I could do for her," he said, his voice becoming quiet.

    Yujia stared at her master. He was finished with his jug of wine, but he didn't seem drunk at all. He only looked off into the distance, not quite displaying much emotion now, except for pure blankness.

    Carefully, she said, "How... did you get better, afterwards?"

    He answered in his soft voice, still. "I didn't think that I would, for a period of time. I took a long break from everything for numerous years and went traveling across the empire. I wish that I did that with her, but instead, back then, I was too worried about keeping the academy open and prosperous. Funnily enough, none of those foolish worries mattered. In the end, during my trip, Lingxin closed down. All the students were sent away."

    "Then, what happened when you returned?"

    He paused. "I thought that Lingxin would be a failure, after all those years during my departure. However, perhaps because my skills became refined over the years, I won the recognition of one of the princes. He became my disciple. Later, when the crown prince was deposed, this disciple became the new crown prince, and of course, the fame and honor came back to the academy."

    "That crown prince... he's the Emperor now, isn't he?" Yujia asked, awe spreading across her face.

    "Indeed. Then, life just played out. I made friends with Ye Xuanhe, who is the school head that you know of ever since I retired. Lingxin Academy became what I always dreamed that it would become, yet she was not there by my side to see these things with me."

    Yujia observed him now. The old man in front of him wasn't the spirited, careless master she knew. He was quieter, more careful with his words. Though, this personality change was to be expected. He had been this way ever since the start of the day.

    "She didn't leave anything to me," he continued, "No paintings, no letters- just a few of her creations that you see in your courtyard today. That was why I was so keen on taking you in as a student. The two of you truly share a similar style in art."

    Yujia blinked.

    Her master smiled now, gently, head inclined a bit to the side. "So, tell me child, what is the future like, for you?"

    Hearing this, Yujia raised her eyebrows, not from surprise, but rather how unexpected this question was. She figured that her master picked up on her status as a transmigrator ever since he began the story. After all, he said that she reminded him of his wife, and he knew his wife so well. How could he not guess Yujia's true background as well?

    Yujia tapped her fingers on the table, thinking of a proper response. "The future is... like how your wife described. More equality, more opportunities. Yet human nature, in the end, stays the same, even thousands of years later."

    "Is that so?" His smile grew a little fainter, but it didn't vanish. "Since I've told you my story, isn't it your turn now? Tell me about it all. I want to know," he brought up.

    Yujia knew that it was only fair. Straightening herself, she agreed and began her story.

    He revealed the rawest parts of his heart, so she did the same. She told him about everything- about her parents, her broken family, her brother's death, her failure in her career, her arrogance being her downfall, her constant habit of running away and being a coward, and her final moment before transmigration.

    He listened attentively. Yujia wasn't sure if she was the best, most captivating storyteller, but she tried her hardest. He did his best to convey the darkest memories of his past. She could only attempt the same.

    At the end of all of this, her master requested, "If it's not too much, can I ask if you've heard of a Wei Yunjing in your timeline? I... wanted to know if perhaps, by chance, she went back to her time."

    Yujia shook her head slowly. "I'm sorry. I never paid much attention to the business world. If she did... I haven't heard of her."

    "Oh."

    She could see his expression fall, but her master quickly covered up his disappointment by looking away.

    Yujia, however, still had one last question. She had been meaning to ask, yet she didn't quite know when to do so. Now, perhaps, seemed like a decent time.

    "Master, I want to know how you moved on."

    "How I moved on?" he echoed, raising his gaze up

    "Yes."

    Her master seemed to understand exactly what she was thinking about- her brother. He thought for a moment, then explained to her his thoughts.

    "Every person has a different way of moving on. We run away, we hate the past, we wish that we were wiser back then and made a better choice, a better decision. For me, things began to change when I realized that she didn't want me to act the way that I did. She didn't want me to be unhappy, to suffer, and to hate both her and myself for our choices. She wanted me to stop regretting. I thought about the conversation we had that night for a long period of time."

    He folded his hands on the table in front of him.

    "Traveling helped. At first, it was a way for me to run away. Then, it was my way of understanding more- about people, about her, and most importantly, about myself. Doing things that I loved helped. Going to places that made me realize how beautiful the world was, despite the ugly parts of life, gave me hope. For me, all it was was time. I let time do its job. Perhaps, for you, it can be something similar. Over time, you learn to stop focusing on the few memories of their death, and to think of the happier memories you spent with them. You learn to cherish these things."

    He sighed.

    "In the end, you cannot continue to be in denial. You cannot continue to try to crush and smother and bury the past. Forcing yourself to step over these emotions doesn't help. It's crucial to let it out, to find people who are willing to listen, and to move on."

    "Like I said from the start, everyone has a different way of moving on. There is no right or wrong. There are no guidelines or timelines. It is all your decision."

    Yujia stared at him.

    Seeing her expression, he let out a single laugh. "All that vagueness didn't help at all, did it?"

    "Somewhat. But- I'm still uncertain. And I hate this uncertainty. I hate the fact that I don't really know what I'm doing with my life. I've had this feeling for so long, and I'm sick of it. I'm sick of all these emotions, and I want them to go away. I thought that trying to move on would help me, but it doesn't. At all. I know that the past is the past, and I've accepted the fact that none of it is going to change. Yet there's still that overwhelming guilt building up within me whenever I think of the past, along with so much, so much pain." she admitted.

    "Well," he paused, "maybe, my dear, you are just confused about the true meaning of moving on. Moving on is not simply accepting the past. It is not ridding yourself of these emotions either. Grief is grief. After all these years, even when you become someone as old and wrinkled as me, the grief does not go away."

    "Then, what's the point of moving on?"

    "You no longer allow the grief to hinder your daily life. You accept it fully, the past and the emotions with it. You allow it to become a part of you, and that it can make you grow stronger. It's not about making the grief vanish. It was never about that, in the first place. Perhaps moving forward would be a better way to say it."

    She didn't quite have a response to this.

    "Still confused?" he asked, resting his chin on his hand.

    "To be honest, yes."

    "Ah. You'll understand one day." He waved his other hand, sighing again. "Is there anything else you would like to ask or talk about?"

    "No, not really." Yujia stopped, realizing that this was a subtle signal that the conversation was over. She stood up, bowing. "This disciple thanks master for the story and wisdom."

    "I'm glad we had this conversation." He smiled back at her.

    "Me too."

    He waved his hand again. "Since we're finished with all of this, this old man is feeling tired. Why don't you go busy yourself with your things?"

    "Of course."

    Yujia accepted the farewell and departed, plenty of new thoughts swarming in her head.

    ...

    As Yue Ze watched her disappearing figure, he sighed again.

    To be young and bold- he was once like that as well.

    He wondered: if he had grandchildren, they would be around her age as well, wouldn't they?
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