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219 Unoriginal Chapter Titles and the Artis

    The conversation Yujia had with her master took up the first half of the day. After eating lunch, she decided to get to work- or at least, to be a productive person.

    She grabbed the small box that she technically stole from Madam Zhang, placing it into her sleeve. She also made sure that her satchel of taels were full and in her pocket. Then, Yujia left Lingxin in search of a locksmith.

    Today would be the day where she would get someone to open this box for her.

    Wandering in the marketplace for a while brought Yujia to the shop of a reputable locksmith in the capital. She had to ask around a bit to see which shop would be the best shop to go to, and so, here she was- at what she expected to be the most trustworthy locksmith in the city.

    As usual, when she went out in a female identity, Yujia wore the veil that Zhou Luowei gifted her. Her attire and dress all seemed to be that of a typical young miss, so it was no surprise that the people in the locksmith shop were a bit startled the moment she walked in.

    After all, what could any young miss go to a locksmith for? If she needed anything, she should've sent a servant.

    On the other hand, Yujia wasn't dressed as a young miss to act like one. She just needed to keep her identity private, and the veil that Luowei gave her matched best with more young-miss-like robes.

    This time around, Yujia didn't bother with any flowery language or subtle lies. She simply took out the box, placed it on the counter in front of her, and told the locksmith what she wanted.

    "I need you to forge a key that can open this box without damaging it or the lock."

    The locksmith hesitated, perhaps still a bit taken aback by her appearance and identity. Thus, Yujia had to use her classic trick of bribery, pulling out her satchel of taels and taking out quite a bit.

    "If you manage to do this for me by tomorrow, all these taels are yours."

    At this, the expression of the locksmith changed. People were always like this, when given the incentive of money.

    It was true that as long as one had money, anything was possible in this world...

    The locksmith smiled at Yujia, scratching his neck. His tone immediately became more friendly. "Young Miss, that should be an doable task for me."

    "Alright," Yujia paused, then continued, "I also expect that with your shop having the positive reputation that it has, no matter what you find in that box when you open it, you will not touch it or spread word of its contents."

    "Of course. That's a definite policy of my shop." He nodded.

    Things worked out far easier now that Yujia had taels that she could just bribe people with. She gave him a smile, pleased with how quickly everything was settled.

    Yujia paid him a few taels as a down payment, then left the shop.

    This man seemed like a trustworthy locksmith. If she couldn't trust him to do his job, then she wouldn't be able to do anything about the box or the contents within it. Even though she didn't like the idea of other people who she didn't know well being able to see the contents of the box before she did, she supposed that it was the same concept of letting a new hairdresser have control over the customer's haircut. When it came to letting professionals do their job, some basic trust was needed.

    It was overall a simple concept.

    ...

    To Yujia's surprise, when she returned to Lingxin, she was stopped by the gatekeeper.

    This gatekeeper servant was the person who regulated everyone entering and exiting Lingxin, to make sure that only students and people of the villa entered. He knew Yujia well by now, and Yujia discovered that he was a cheery and talkative man. He must have liked his job, one that paid him for just standing by a door and talking with a few people passing by.

    The moment he stopped her, Yujia expected that he was just saying a hello. Instead, he actually gestured down at her waist, saying, "Where's your pendant?"

    He was talking about the white jade pendant that was given to all Lingxin disciples. Yujia usually carried it by tying it around the belt on her waist, like many other disciples. It was a way of proving her identity and status as a student of Lingxin.

    This phrase was what surprised her. Did she not have the pendant on her?

    She looked down as well, noticing that indeed, the usual pendant wasn't there.

    For a moment, Yujia tried to recall if because she was dressed in casual wear, she happened to put her pendant in her pocket or something of that sort. She reached in her pockets, expecting to find the familiar piece of cold jade.

    Her pockets were empty except for her tael satchel.

    This made Yujia frown.

    "I don't have it on me," she admitted.

    Did she happen to leave it in her courtyard this morning? Maybe she had been so excited to listen to her master talk that she forgot about it. That seemed like a reasonable idea.

    Yujia tried thinking about it a little more, the fear of a thief possibly stealing the pendant from her, unaware, tracing her thoughts.

    Yet with a little more thinking, she scratched out that possibility.

    It couldn't have been a thief. She didn't have any memory of carrying the pendant on her for this entire day, so the chances of her bringing it out on the streets and having someone that would steal it from her were not that great.

    Though, there was that possibility that she lost it the day before...

    For a brief second, Yujia considered asking the gatekeeper if he remembered seeing the pendant on her yesterday. Only, with another thought, she scratched that idea out too.

    Yesterday, she returned late, so the gatekeeper wasn't guarding the front doors of Lingxin. He was only there during the day, when traffic was the highest. When it wasn't the right time, the front doors would be locked. Yujia discovered that she had to get into the villa in Lingxin through the side doors instead. Therefore, the gatekeeper wouldn't have noticed if Yujia had her pendant on her when she returned yesterday.

    She knew for a fact that she carried her pendant with her yesterday, however. It was because of the fact that the pendant was a crucial part of her disguise as a Lingxin student during her infiltration of the Yu Villa.

    This left her with two ideas about the whereabouts of the pendant.

    Did she bring it back with her, after visiting Zixu, who was ill? Or did she accidently leave it at the Yu Villa?

    Maybe when Zixu fell on her, during the chaos, the pendant accidently fell off of her. That seemed like a believable explanation for why she didn't have it on her anymore.

    Yujia settled on this idea that she might've dropped it at the Yu Villa. It seemed the most plausible.

    Giving the gatekeeper a flustered smile, Yujia explained, "I think I lost the pendant at a friend's place. I'll go fetch it later."

    "Sure." The gatekeeper smiled back. "I know your face, so obviously, it won't be an issue if you don't have the pendant. But still, objects like these shouldn't be carelessly lost. I hope that you can retrieve it soon."

    "I definitely will," she assured.

    ...

    Returning back to the villa, Yujia found Yunhe waiting in her courtyard. He held a flat and square box and sat at the stone table in the center of her courtyard.

    "What are you doing here, Senior Brother?" Yujia asked, casually sitting down and pouring herself a cup of tea.

    Yunhe explained, his expression flat, "I went and talked with Master for lunch. He was cranky and said that he wanted to sleep, so he almost shooed me away. But then, I think he thought of something- he got up and pulled out this box, then handed it to me. He said to give it to you, and that it was a gift."

    "A gift?" Yujia's eyes lit up.

    She didn't expect to receive a gift at all. Just hearing her master's story was enough of a gift to her. And what could her master possibly have for her?

    "Did you open the box already?" Yujia continued with a question, pulling the box towards her.

    "No. Master told me that I wasn't supposed to, and I figured that however curious I was, I could always wait for you to get back and open it." Yunhe's lips twitched down into a frown. "But, sometimes, I feel like I'm just a messenger and delivery boy for Master. He doesn't even treat me like his disciple anymore," he grumbled.

    "You visit him so often that he probably just finds it more convenient to send you over than to call over a servant," Yujia snorted. "Well, anyways, let's see what's in here."

    She raised the lid of the box. What she saw next surprised her:

    Oil paint. Tubes and tubes of oil paint.
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