"Morning. You can probably tell," he smiled and pointed out, "but the shop is finished."
As her eyes surveyed the well-built store, Yujia could feel them widen in amazement. The entire structure seemed incredible, the workmanship and construction looking like something that would've taken months, not days.
Zhizhong was the one who took creative liberties with the layout of the shop. Yujia did have a few suggestions, but because she wasn't well-versed in architecture or design, she left it mostly to him.
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He selected a classy type of wood for the walls and installed a sort of smooth mellow brown panels with a tinge of red along its grains. The same wood was used for creating all the counters, displays, and other furniture in the store, though the floor was created out of a matching paved tile, elevating the building a step above ground level.
Right when an individual walked in the shop, they would be greeted by the front counter. Behind the front counter was a large section of wall dedicated for Yujia's paintings and pictures. The counter curved at an angle to give anyone standing behind it access to an abacus and a few booklets of management and transactions. Underneath the counter was a shelf space and a few locked chests to keep any important documents.
When one walked to the left side of the shop, there was a lot of space for displays of different materials. There were many different types of paper and thin silk scrolls on one side. On the other was an area dedicated to brushes and inks. And at the very center of it all, attracting all the attention of anyone who walked in instantly was a large display of pencils. There was space for Yujia to place her examples, and there were already pencils on display for demonstration. Specific labels on the walls for each section on the spacious left side of the shop designated explained exactly what each area was for.
Yujia headed towards the opposite right after examining the left side. This section of the shop was divided by an elegant gauzy curtain with beads, which Zhizhong allowed her to enter. The right side was noticeably smaller than the extensive left side, but this fact was probably because it was much more cramped with numerous rows of shelves. Containers were arranged on the shelves in neat manners, and when Yujia pulled one out to see what it was, she was excited to see the entire container filled by rows of pencils labeled by the number six.
She noticed the pencils before, in the other part of the shop, but she was more interested in observing the architecture than the pencils themselves. Now, though, in the storage room, she wanted to have a good look at how the artisan-crafted pencils turned out.
With just a glance, Yujia could tell that the pencils created by the artisans were so much more professional than whatever ones she created. It seemed like she grabbed the pencils from the shelf designated for the nicer, more expensive pencils. Each one was made with a light colored wood that stood out from the darker color wood that made up the shop. Intricate details were also carved and painted onto the pencils, next to the labeled numbering.
An excited smile plastered on her face, Yujia put the pencil in her hand down, then raced to the other side of the shop, where the pencils that the buyers could test out themselves were placed. For a few moments, she just experimented with the pencils by scribbling and adding pressure to create different shades.
The more she played with them, the more she smiled.
In comparison to the crude pencils she created herself, these graphite pencils were much better. Not only did the pigment transfer better onto the paper to create solid lines, Yujia also noticed that the lead was a lot stronger than the pencils she made herself. One of her quiet struggles in her own pencils was that if she ever accidently pressed a little too much, the lead would break and she would have to resharpen them. But with these new ones, it would take a lot more force to snap the lead.
From everything between quality to useability, Yujia deemed these pencils as the closest things to the pencils from the modern world. She was way too impressed with the skills of the artisans to perfect these things within the short time span they had.
There was no doubt that Yushang spent a lot of resources and effort to create this entire store. Turning to him with a smile, Yujia clasped her hands and bowed deeply, so deep that she was sure that if she wanted to show any more respect, the next step would be kneeling and knocking her head on the floor.
"Young Master Bo— I really have no words. This entire shop, from the pencils to the building itself— it's all just perfect. Really, I can't think of a way to ever repay you."
"What repayment are you speaking of?" Zhizhong replied with a soft smile and gestured for her to stand straight. "We are co-owners of this business. I am merely completing my responsibilities. Besides, I always like to put in my full effort into anything I take on, and a pencil business is no exception."
Yujia couldn't help but feel a little emotional. She never had anything as nice as this art supply shop in her entire life. It was strange to think how much she upgraded from a broken, tiny apartment with newspaper covered floors to such a clean, stylish store that she held partial ownership of within a month of transmigrating to this world.
Zhizhong played such a big part in this too. Without him and all his work, Yujia didn't think that the building that she was currently standing in was even a possible task. She would've been just selling mediocre pencils in some sad stall. Where would the grandeur that she was standing in now even come from?
Before she could get too caught up in all her emotions, Zhizhong added on, "When do you want to open this store? I can do it anytime you want to. I've hired a person to act as a clerk, but if you want to help in the background for some management things, we can do that as well. The clerk will be arriving in the afternoon, if you want to meet him. He's experienced in running a clothing shop before, so he's experienced and will get used to everything in no time."
"Then… I'll bring my paintings and sketches, and we can mount them. The earlier we can open the shop, the better. So let's open it today, in the afternoon. Is that too soon?" Yujia suggested.
"No, I can work with that." Zhizhong agreed with a carefree grin. "One last thing, though. The shop still doesn't have a name or sign. I want to give you the honor of naming the shop. You deserve it."
Yujia took a few long moments to think of a proper name.
"How about…" she proposed with slow words, "
— Three Inks Shop?"
"Three Inks?" Zhizhong tilted his head. "That's interesting. Which three inks, though?"
"First ink, traditional painting." Yujia held up one finger, then held up another one. "Second ink, my pencils. A brush with ink woven within it. And…" She paused, thinking about it before she held up her third finger. "The third ink is a product I'm still working on right now. When I'm finished inventing, we can begin selling it then." She gave Zhizhong a mysterious smile.
He nodded thoughtfully. "That makes sense. And it's a good name to last in the memories of others either. I like it."
"I like it too." Yujia couldn't wipe off the smile on her face. Ever since she stepped in the store, she noticed that she couldn't help but smile foolishly in practically every second.
Soon enough, Zhizhong was returning her smile, and it was just the two of them, smiling ridiculously as they looked at the grand shop. The sort of happiness threaded between them was the sort of happiness that came out of a grand achievement after a lot of work. It was a smile of accomplishment and pride.
The silence broke when Zhizhong stated, "I'll go and hire people to make a store sign for us at the front. This should be finished by noon."
"I'll go and fetch my paintings and advertise some too, then." Yujia clasped her hands again and bowed. "See you in a few hours, Young Master Bo."
Zhizhong bowed back. "See you. Miss Yang."
Yujia had to admit that when she made that statement of farewell, she didn't expect that within a few hours, she would be witnessing her shop open with a long spirling line at the front, all of the people waiting to step into the open doors of the Three Inks Shop.
Yujia saw Zhizhong standing in the empty yet well furnished shop when she walked in. He was standing in front of a counter facing the doorway, observing around the room, and his eyes landed on hers.