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253 Tests for the Maid

    Yujia lifted her brows. "What?"

    Zixu rose up from the desk he sat at, turning to grab a box from the shelves behind him. From within the box, he retrieved a small and flat container, no larger than the palm of his hand, made from smooth jade. He faced her again, opening the container to show her the contents within it.

    There was a pale, snow-white ointment cream packed tightly within the container.

    "Like I told you before, Ziyang burnt himself the other day. I bought him some ointment, but it seemed like he already had some, so this was useless. I just recalled, you burnt yourself a while back too while you were here, didn't you? The scald should not have healed completely yet, so perhaps this ointment will be of use, especially to prevent scars" Zixu explained.

    A smile crossed Yujia's expression. She held out her hand to look at the splotch where she had been scalded at. "Thank you, but I've already been putting some ointment on it, so it's doing alright. Also, the physician had said that the burn shouldn't scar."

    It was odd to think that Zixu still remembered that her hand was scalded by some hot tea. After all, Zixu had a fever at the time, so she thought that he would forget things like that.

    Except, then again, it was Yu Zixu. She needed to stop underestimating the extent to this man's observational skills.

    Zixu tilted his head. "You never know with these kinds of things. Sometimes, they can leave unexpected scars, so it's better to be safe than sorry. The ointment the physician prescribed to you was likely better for treating it at the beginning. The one I bought is for more long-term treatment. It's made of the finest herbs; therefore, it will certainly help."

    Yujia stared at the little jade container for some longer. It definitely looked high quality, considering that it even came in a container made of jade.

    "I don't have any use for this," Zixu went on, "since Ziyang has the same exact medicine. You might as well take it, lest it go to waste. The ointment will make your scald feel immediately better- if you don't believe me, try it."

    He swabbed a finger into the cream, then reached for her hand.

    "Wait-" Yujia shrunk back, completely hesitant at the idea of Zixu touching her hand based on all the social standards of this era that she spent hours hammering into her head in the past. "This isn't proper, is it?"

    The corners of Zixu's lips twitched. "You're my maid, Yu'er. Why wouldn't it be proper?"

    He held out his open hand this time, waiting for her to place her hand in his.

    A memory flashed in Yujia's mind- one of a pesky Noble Rong who grabbed onto her hand in the past, even after her clear signs of showing discomfort. She didn't like the idea of skin contact then. But today, here, with Zixu, he wasn't forcing any contact on her. By holding out his hand like this, he was still respecting her boundaries. It was different.

    Besides, he was right- she was supposed to be a maid. There was also the fact that this man in front of her drew all over her face already.

    So, Yujia gently placed her hand on his open hand.

    Neither of them said a word as Zixu dabbed the dollop of ointment onto the part of her hand which had been burnt. His touch was gentle, or more so delicate, as he spread the cream over her skin, careful to not cause any pain to the tender, scalded part.

    Zixu was correct. In comparison to the ointment Yujia had used last time, this ointment felt much more soothing on her skin. There was also a very faint herbal fragrance to it, almost nothing compared to the strong herbal scent the one she had been using held.

    It was a brief moment between the two of them, one that lasted no more than a few seconds, but in that moment, Yujia's heart skipped an extra beat.

    And just like that, the moment ended as quickly as it occurred. Zixu drew his hand away, closed the lid of the container, and placed it in Yuija's hands.

    "You can keep this, and be sure to apply the ointment at least two times a day," he instructed, his gaze serious.

    Yuija couldn't help but grin. She tried holding the grin back, but she really couldn't. "Alright, will do everything according to your instructions, Physician Yu. Thanks."

    Zixu seemed like he was about to say something, but he paused, burying down a smile by raising his eyebrows.

    "That was a test," he immediately announced, completely taking Yujia by surprise, "and you failed."

    The expression on Yujia's face fell. She tensed up, straightening herself as she demanded, "How?"

    Turning, Zixu went to put the box from which he retrieved the ointment from back to the empty space on the shelf, where it once was. He told her while doing so, "When you're going undercover, you should be prepared for all sorts of situations. Even for the ones that take you unexpectedly and even for the ones which you don't believe that you have to continue upholding your disguise for, you should still stay in character. Allowing yourself moments where you can excuse yourself by slipping away from your disguise will only lead to more mistakes in the future. The best way to prevent something from happening is to not practice that certain action or put yourself in that situation, at all."

    He faced her again, gesturing with his head at her hand. His reprimands continued flowing from his mouth.

    "Because I referenced something that happened to you when you were not in the state of a maid, you immediately forgot to hold up your disguise. You thought that I was interacting with you as if you were my Junior Sister again, and so, you dropped your maid persona. In the future, when you actually go undercover, will you drop your maid persona if you run into someone talking about the Fourth Miss?"

    "Hey- but-" Yujia instantly retorted, "That's a mind game you played. You wanted me to fall into the trap."

    "If I dug a pit in front of you right now and told you to jump down, would you listen to me?" Zixu shook his head, sighing.

    At this, Yujia agreed that Zixu had a point. She shut up, allowing him to continue with his berating.

    "From the moment that I began talking to you, telling you that I had something for you, you already began to make mistakes upon mistakes. First, the attitude of a maid responding to their young master telling them that they had a gift should not be a 'What?'. Speaking casually like that is incorrect. You must always remember to keep a more formal attitude."

    Yujia thought of something to retort with, but she bit her words down, deciding to be more accepting of the advice. It would be a wiser decision to hear him out before saying anything.

    "After that moment, you continued to use the word 'you' when addressing me, instead of 'young master'. That's, again, one of the most telling signs that you are not a maid, since any servant who has worked for years would take on this habit of speech."

    Zixu went to take a seat, but he wasn't finished yet.

    He had many more points- talking about her attitude, her word choice, her body language, and the emotions she displayed on her face. Yujia found herself agreeing with everything he said, recording these down in her mind as mental notes.

    Towards the very end of it, Zixu concluded with how she made a joke about him being her physician, which would be very unsuitable for a maid to tell. Finding herself regretting that joke, Yujia honestly wished that she had the power to turn back time to correct all her errors.

    At the start, Yujia wanted to retort. At the end, she realized that there was really no point in retorting. She ended up bowing deeply, assuming the persona of a maid as she said, "This maid is sincerely apologetic for the incorrect behavior this maid displayed in the past and would like to thank Young Master for the tips."

    Zixu nodded, waving for her to rise. She looked up carefully, barely daring to make eye contact yet finding that he was smiling.

    "Good. You passed the test of accepting criticism. Congratulations on not failing this one, Yu'er," he applauded.

    Yujia remained silent, her lips pressing into a thin line.How many tests were there? It seemed like at the end of her every word, Yu Zixu was about to erupt into speech about how she passed or failed a test that she hadn't even known that she was taking two seconds ago.

    But, perhaps that was the lesson he was trying to teach her: that every moment in life was a test and keeping one's guard up was essential.
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