Yujia ate half of Yunhe's breakfast, which he insisted that he didn't need to eat all of. Chef Hong did tend to always make a little more than a typical breakfast portion, and there was an extra pair of chopsticks. Hence, Yujia found herself finally getting to put some food into her system.
Now, if only she had some chocolate…
Yujia quickly pushed that thought away when Yunhe gestured at her.
"So, tell me," he said, "Why this disguise? Are you really so bored that you would do this for fun?"
She decided to be honest. "So you know how I told you a while back that my parents tried to force me to marry some old man?"
"Ah. Yes." Yunhe nodded, tapping the table. "I… do recall something of that sort."
"Right. So there were some complications, and now I'm stuck in a situation where I have to go undercover in the villa as a maid to figure out the identity of some thief that keeps stealing from the villa. I'm going to do some practicing here so that I'm completely prepared."
"Sounds interesting." At this point, Yunhe was pouring himself a cup of tea.
"There's more to it," Yujia went on, "but it would be difficult to explain."
It really would. How was she supposed to tell him everything about Madam Liu, Madam Zhang, the poison, and everything?
Yunhe replied, "Alright then. You don't have to explain."
"You're not curious?" Yujia asked, tilting her head.
"Not really. It seems like a lot of personal business, and I'm not interested in getting involved with too much of that. Some things people deserve to keep to themselves," he answered.
Yujia cracked a grin. "Ah, we're so different. If someone only tells me half of the story, I would be dying to know the other half."
"I just think that sometimes, it's better to not know than know." He finished his cup of tea. Setting the pale jade cup down on the table, Yunhe suddenly suggested, "Are you going to try to trick Master?"
She nodded. "Definitely. It's good practice." She suddenly thought of an idea and leaned forward. "Do you want to help me?"
"How can I?"
The cheerful grin on Yujia's face was replaced by a mischievous smile. "Well, all you have to do is…"
Moments later, Yunhe was paying a visit to their master's villa while Yujia followed behind him, playing the role of a maid carrying a bunch of scrolls.
Her plan was simple. Yunhe was about to troll their master with a pile of ridiculous "abstract art", and Yujia would try to be as unnoticeable as she could, acting as a servant. She came up with the idea on the spot, but Yujia still had to pat herself on the back, thinking about how genius it was.
They arrived fairly quickly.
Once inside and finding their master, Yunhe greeted, saying, "Master, I discovered a new style of painting and couldn't stop painting it since last night. I came to ask for your opinion."
The old man nodded, waving his hand. Yue Ze expected to see some innovative and half decent techniques, so he was really more focused on Yunhe than the maid behind his disciple.
The maid— Yujia— quietly walked to the side of the table, keeping her head down. She untied the first scroll, rolling it across the table without any flourishes or unnecessary, attention-catching movements.
Their master's eyes were greeted with a blank scroll.
The scroll was just blank paper. There was not a spot of ink on it, and as a result, obviously, nothing was drawn. No 'new techniques' were used. The paper was slightly wrinkled and damp, but other than that, it was just blank.
Yue Ze stared it for an awfully long time.
Then, slowly, he looked up at Yunhe, quietly saying, "Do you take me as a fool, brat?"
Even though Yujia gave Yunhe specific instructions to remain as serious as possible, she already noticed him beginning to crack up from the corner of her eye. He looked like he was trying so hard to hold back laughter.
"This is… water painting, Master," Yunhe explained, using the exact words Yujia told him, "It's a complex process that involves painting without substance. I thought about the principles of painting for a long time before arriving at this conclusion. The only way that one can create true, spiritual art is if one works with nothing but the image within one's own mind. Using ink and solid substances takes away from the creativity and limitless freedom of one's artistic spirit. Once one puts a single line down on paper, the ink is already beginning to chain down one's mind and ability to take the art to further places. Thus, through painting with water— something that the eye cannot see�� one can finally unleash the true spirit of painting."
Yunhe's chest was shaking with held-back laughter, especially towards the end of his speech. It sounded ridiculous. He knew it. Yujia knew it. And of course, their master knew it. But he was still not done.
"Furthermore," Yunhe shakily said, "water painting only leaves the faintest of impressions onto the pages. As a result, it creates a boundless, immeasurable space for the viewer to perceive what they wish to take from the paintings. This allows every single piece of water art to become incredibly priceless— it not only unlocks Spirit Resonance for the painter, but also provides anyone, from the most beginner of artists to the true masters, the ability to perceive equally as much Spirit Resonance. For example, I… I can see a landscape painting here, with the curves of the paper following the shapes of the mountains. But Master, you may see something entirely else. Hence, this painting style and kind of artwork is priceless."
Once Yunhe finished, their master was silent for an awfully long time.
When he finally spoke up, he became increasingly more quiet, his words barely more than a mumble. "Priceless, hm…?"
Yunhe nodded. The behavior of his master confused him. He expected to be instantly berated angrily, but could it be that the bullsh*tting speech his Junior Sister conjured up for him actually made sense to their master? He glanced over at Yujia for help.
"Priceless…" their master continued, "Priceless, my a**!" His quiet voice suddenly changed into a bold roar, making even Yujia jump back. "You think I'm an absolute idiot? Who would actually believe this to be true art? It's just water on paper! Even a child— no, even a baby can do something like this!" He huffed, standing up. "This scroll, bring it to your father or something! Maybe someone like him will actually fall for something like this, but I am not."
Yunhe hastily said in reply, "Wait, Master, I have more of these paintings! Let me show you the rest of them. Maybe then, you will understand…"
Yujia took this as a signal to step forward and roll out more scrolls.
She realized that her master was so fuming and focused on Yunhe that his strong emotions prevented him from noticing her existence. Was this some sort of psychology trick that she was discovering? As long as she looked and acted like a maid, she was practically ignored, which was a good thing, in Yujia's perspective.
Only, the more scrolls Yujia rolled out, the angrier her master seemed to become.
"I didn't wake up early today to see this kind of bullcrap!" With a wave, her master pushed one of the scrolls onto the floor. "To call these blank pages artwork is an insult to the painting world!"
Yunhe couldn't hold back his laughter anymore. A wave of laughter came out of him, and he clutched his stomach with how hard he laughed. "Master—" he managed to exclaim between his laughter, "It's just a joke— Junior Sister came up with it— you were so angry—"
Then, completely out of both of their expectations, the anger seemed to vanish out of their master's gaze in an instant. He burst out in loud laughter as well, pointing at Yunhe. "You finally admitted to it! Did you think you got me angry, brat?" He patted the table. "This old man has experienced too much to get angry at just some blank pieces of paper! You wanted to get this reaction from me, so I gave it to you. Do you seriously think that I couldn't tell how much you were holding back your obvious laughter? The moment you started speaking, I knew. You've always been terrible at lying. Who's the true fool now, hm?"
"No way, Master!" Yunhe replied indignantly, "Besides, if anyone's the fool, Junior Sister is. She was the one who came up with the idea. She said that you would definitely get irritated over it."
This was the moment Yujia was waiting for. Since her master didn��t realize that she was here yet, seemingly, what kinds of gossip could she get from him?
"Your Junior Sister, hm?" Yue Ze smirked. "Why am I not surprised? That kid has a good brain, but she wastes it on coming up with ridiculous ideas like this one. Actually though— go tell her to propose the idea of 'water painting' to some of the other people in the painting world. I promise you that those pompous bastards would lap up that idea so quickly."
Yunhe's eyes lit up. He turned to Yujia, agreeing, "Junior Sister, you really should—"
His words cut off as he realized the grievous mistake he committed.
Yujia's eyes widened.
Their master turned to her, noticing her existence, his eyes widening too.
That was how Yujia came to yet another lesson.
Lesson #3 of the Day: When choosing a partner to work with, don't choose someone like Ye Yunhe with a short memory span, who forgets the whole purpose of the collaboration the moment his attention gets diverted.
Plenty of berating from her master, apologies from her senior brother, and fun conversations involving all three of them later, Yujia found that her morning passed rather productively.
She still thought that she needed more practice though, and for some reason, one name kept appearing in her mind: