12 The Fourth Miss Gives Up

"Passed away?" Yujia looks at Hui'er, her eyes narrowing with frustration.

She couldn't go to Guilin, nor could she bring her troubles along with her to Guilin. Why wasn't anything working?

Angrily, she bends down and picks up her "masterpiece", a sharpened stick she dropped earlier, not noticing as Hui'er deliberately backed away another step. "You know what, Hui'er? I give up. I give up, alright?"

"Miss… I'm sorry…"

Yujia looks up at Hui'er's downcast expression and instinctively reaches forward to pat Hui'er's head in a sort of comforting manner, thinking of what to say in order to console the young girl. In reality, however, Yujia was thinking more of what she wished someone would encourage her with, repeating the words to herself while pretending like she was assuring Hui'er.

"Don't worry, silly. It's not your fault; why should you be sorry?"

At those few phrases, Hui'er looks up, her eyes sparkling. Earlier, she thought that the Fourth Miss was acting a bit immature and inconsiderate, constantly bringing up the idea of leaving her mother alone, but now, with her new words, the Fourth Miss somehow appeared to… grow up? Her words were wise and thoughtful, shining new light on Hui'er's impression on her the other.

Perhaps the Fourth Miss wasn't too bad of a person after all…

… but then, still, what was that threatening-looking sharp wooden stick she was clutching tightly in her right fist?

Hui'er recalled this morning, where the Fourth Miss responded with a "you'll see" when she asked what the "sculpture" was for. Yet now, since the "thing" looked finished, surely Hui'er could get a proper answer.

"Miss, I cannot guess what you are trying to make. What is that piece of wood?"

"Ah, Hui'er, that's a pencil." Yujia triumphantly waves her little creation in her hand. "I don't think you have ever seen one, have you?"

She looks expectingly at Hui'er, and Hui'er simply shakes her head. How could she have seen something like this? And if she did, she would just treat it as a sharpened stick, nothing much to take note of and definitely not whatever the Fourth Miss was calling it. What did she say again? A… pen-cil?

As Hui'er thinks, Yujia feels pleased with herself that earlier, she guessed right about the fact that pencils were not a thing yet. She was satisfied with the thought that a morning of learning how to scrape a piece of wood with a thin blade until it resembled something similar to a pencil didn't go to waste. If she was told that pencils were already a thing, the tragedy of working so hard to carve a model of something already existing coupled with the fact that Guilin was no longer a option would surely be too much for Yujia to take…

"Well then, congrats. It's your first time seeing a pencil." Yujia presents the pencil on her flat palms. "In fact, this can be considered as my… invention. You are the second person to ever lay your eyes onto something like this. Consider yourself lucky."

Hui'er was baffled. How could a sharpened piece of wood be considered as an invention? Didn't ancient cavemen use similar things to spear fish and roast meat? And didn't some trees just have extremely sharp branches growing on themselves? If anything, it was mother nature who invented a "pencil" first, not her Fourth Miss.

"What is it for, Miss?"

A grin stretches on Yujia's face. This is the question she was waiting for. "Drawing, Hui'er. I am revolutionizing art. Gone are the days of brush and ink! I bring along technology, the modernistic, and contemporary art." She pauses at the last bit, thinking deeply. "Cross out the last part, though. It's not exactly contemporary— but contemporary enough for this time period, I suppose."

Hesitancy spreads across Hui'er's face. Again, it was one of those times where she could barely understand what her Fourth Miss was implying. Was the stress of being unable to go to Guilin too much for the Fourth Miss? Was this her breaking point? Did the Fourth Miss go crazy?

"Miss, are you… alright?"

Alright? No, Yujia was not alright! She was ecstatic, enthusiastic, eager, her miniature speech before about revolutions and improvements exciting her more than her target audience, Hui'er, who she was attempting to persuade.

"Hui'er, I honestly cannot wait." Pure bliss appears on Yujia's face.

In contrast, to Hui'er, the smile seems more eerie than pleasant, as her image of the Fourth Miss and her invention was more of a negative sort. She was still unsure what the Fourth Miss meant by "pencil". Instantly, she becomes uncomfortable as she imagines the Fourth Miss and her intentions with the "pencil".

Yujia, meanwhile, doesn't sense Hui'er's discomfort, and instead, reaches over with her free hand to grab Hui'er's hand. "Come on, Hui'er, let's get going."

Hui'er tilts her head. "Where are we going?"

"To the marketplace." Nonchalantly, Yujia spins the pencil in her hand. "This pencil, as you see here, is not actually a working product. It's all made of wood. No graphite. You can't exactly draw with it. I sort of made it… just to have a model to explain with." She smiles a bit. "That's why, Hui'er, we must go to the market and find someone who has actual tools and skills to create us a few copies of them. And then, I'll buy some supplies to fill the pencils up with graphite and clay. A pencil will be born that way."

Hui'er nods despite still being clueless.

Releasing the other girl's hand, Yujia rushes to her bedside and reaches under the pillow, where she placed the sack of silvers earlier. "We have our money, don't we? Now, all we need to do is to exchange it for some… goods." Yujia grins again.

Although Hui'er is still unsure of the intentions of her Fourth Miss, she decides to go with the Fourth Miss to the market. After all, only a few moments ago, she was extremely distraught over Guilin, and likely still was. Hui'er didn't want her Fourth Miss to be stuck in that defeated mindset, so distracting her with the marketplace was a good idea as well. Why stop the Fourth Miss when she finally takes interest in something?

So, as Yujia leaves her room and courtyard, a light skip in every step, Hui'er quickly follows after, hoping that her Fourth Miss will stay this way, carefree and happy.
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