She really did. While in the past, she might have been more reckless and bold with her actions, her current self wanted to be someone who came off as a very cordial person. It was as if she saw right now that picking up fights for no particular reason was completely pointless.
Yu Zixu was admirable in that trait— though his constantly calm attitude was a little unsettling, it would be nice to learn a skill like that. Yujia wanted to achieve a sort of inner tranquility, especially after all the conflict that happened in the past and the new things she learned about the world and herself.
So, with her current mood, she didn't want to talk or argue with Rong Yuan at all. She felt a little embarrassed, even, that she called him those words in public, though she still saw him that way now that she knew who he was.
She quickly thought of an excuse and set her paintbrush down. "I just remembered that I needed to return home to take care of some matters. Apologies for the sudden notice, but I think I have to leave now."
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It was clear to anyone that she was just rejecting all ideas of talking with Rong Yuan, although in a very polite manner.
Yujia was sure that she could leave now, but Rong Yuan somehow didn't catch the message. "Wait, Junior Sister, what matters? You still haven't answered my question yet!"
How could he not tell from her obvious words that she didn't want to talk any longer?
"I really have to go; I apologize—"
"Junior Sister—" Rong Yuan leaned across the table a little more, his eyes scanning her frantically as if he couldn't understand why she was leaving all of a sudden.
Yujia instinctively took a step back, folding her hands in front of her and bowing. "When I have time, I'll be sure to teach you some more things, Noble Yu."
She turned to leave, but then, she felt a tight hand grabbing onto her wrist.
Turning her head with horror, Yujia saw Rong Yuan reaching forward with his hand, holding her wrist tightly. "Junior Sister, I—"
This was horrendous.
Though by modern standards, a wrist grab might not have been the biggest problem, it was almost like this Noble Rong forgot about all the ancient rules that Yujia somehow remembered instead.
For the most honorable young misses, even showing their face in public was considered shameful. Yujia did get more freedom as she was an illegitimate young miss from a merchant family, but skin-to-skin contact with men was still strictly forbidden and frowned upon.
And the fact that Rong Yuan was acting like this despite the fact that they barely knew each other just revealed his true perspective of her and his intentions.
Yujia yanked her hand, attempting to get it out of Rong Yuan's grasp, but his grip was like iron. If Yujia could use her other hand to peel his fingers off, that would definitely make life easier. The only problem was that it meant more contact, which Yujia didn't want, especially when it was someone like Rong Yuan.
Struggling to keep her voice calm— it was really tempting to just yell at him— Yujia gritted, "Noble Rong, let go of my hand."
"Junior Sister— Miss Yang— just hear me out. I really think that you're incredible. It was like love at first sight for me, and I really think that if you would give me a chance—"
"Give you a chance?" Yujia yanked her hand again. "You're making a scene right now, Noble Rong. Let me go this instant."
Rong Yuan still refused to let go, his mouth blabbering with more words and excuses.
That was when Zixu, who was still painting and ignoring the events that were happening, stood up and made his way to the two of them. Rong Yuan didn't even spare him a glance, but Zixu suggested quietly, "Noble Rong, please have some manners."
Rong Yuan finally cast a look at Zixu. "Noble Yu, this doesn't concern you!"
"Doesn't concern me?" The calm smile on Zixu's face fell off. "What I'm seeing right now is that you're harassing my teacher. How does this not concern me?"
Teacher? Yujia was a bit taken aback by that. When did she evolve from "younger brother" to "Miss Yang" to "teacher"?
His expression turning ugly, Rong Yuan snapped back, "Noble Yu, leave us alone."
Yujia was sick of this. She didn't even care about being polite anymore. Screw all etiquette and manners. She wanted to make herself more nice, but what did that bring her? More annoying people?
"Why don't you leave
alone?" Yujia demanded, her voice rising, "I think I've made my point clear, Noble Rong! I have no interest in you— and you're just speaking nonsense— so let my hand go this instant, or don't blame me if I get you expelled from Lingxin."
It was a bit excessive of a threat, but with someone as stubborn as Rong Yuan, Yujia didn't think that anything else would work.
"You can't do that!" he exclaimed.
"Why not? You seem to forget that my master is Master Yue. What do you think he'll do if I tell him that you harassed me this afternoon? I'm afraid that even if you're my Senior Brother, your master can't protect you that much."
A smug look appeared on Rong Yuan's face, contrary to what Yujia expected as a reaction. "Why do you think I'll care? Even if I get removed from Lingxin, I don't care much about art anyways. If it weren't for my father's insistence, then I wouldn't even be here today."
"Then what about your reputation? I believe that Noble Rong may already have a deteriorating reputation. What if word got out that the honorable Noble Rong was kicked out of Lingxin Pavilion for harassing a female? I'm afraid that this will do more damage to your reputation than mine, and then, what would your father say?"
Rong Yuan shut up after hearing that, his hand loosening.
Yujia immediately pulled her hand back to herself. Bowing to both of them curtly, she spun around and left the pavilion without another word. She didn't want to stay in that uncomfortable situation for a moment longer.
Zixu watched her disappearing figure, then turned to Rong Yuan, who was frozen in place. It was as if the latter couldn't even comprehend what had just happened.
This was a disappointing turn of events that didn't amuse Zixu at all. He wanted to learn a couple more methods of painting today, but the irritating Noble Rong just had to step in and mess everything up. Previously, he didn't think that he had too much negative bias towards this Noble Rong, but now seeing how shameless and aggressive Rong Yuan acted when it came to women, Zixu couldn't help the disgust rising up in him.
Without bothering to say any more words, Zixu sat back down at the table, finishing the practice painting he was working on and completely ignoring Noble Rong, who was dejectedly standing to the side.
It would be a good thing if Rong Yuan just left right now, giving Zixu some time to himself. Zixu decided that there was enough socializing for today, and he didn't really want to have to still act in front of Rong Yuan.
Except, disappointment came to Zixu again as Rong Yuan sat across from him, muttering. "I'm an idiot, aren't I?"
Idiot? Of course, Rong Yuan was an idiot. People who didn't understand the boundaries of others and constantly overstepped them belonged in that category.
But Zixu couldn't speak his thoughts out loud. Rong Yuan's father was the commander of the entire military of Xiang, making Rong Yuan's nobility status extremely high and the only reason why he could go around being as flirtatious as he wanted without too much damage to his reputation. In comparison to the Rong Family, the Yu family was much, much lower on the societal ranks, making it a major offense if Zixu insulted Noble Rong at this current time.
Because of that, Zixu chose to give him a few courteous words of advice. "Your Junior Sister doesn't seem to like it when people come off as too forward."
"Ah…" Rong Yuan sighed, then when a few silent moments passed, he suddenly proposed, "Do you think I should apologize to her? Will that give me another chance?"
Zixu came to the conclusion that Rong Yuan was hopeless.
"I think you should just let the matter drop," Zixu suggested, his words ending as he tried to focus more on his painting. He really wished that Noble Rong would just leave him alone.
"No!" Immediately, Rong Yuan proclaimed, "Why is everyone telling me that I should leave this matter alone! You, Senior Brother Yu, Senior Brother Jiang… the more they tell me that I can't do something, the more I want to do it! The more they tell me I can't have something, the more I want to have it!"
Stubborn people like Noble Rong truly irritated Zixu. "They probably have a point," Zixu quietly noted.
"I've decided, I'm going to apologize to Junior Sister Yang!"
Zixu felt pity towards the fact that Miss Yang had a leech like Rong Yuan clinging on her. But because it really wasn't part of his matters— as long as he could learn the art techniques without disturbance, he didn't really mind whatever other people chose to do— he simply replied, "Then do what makes you happy."
Since discouraging Noble Rong didn't work, surely encouraging him would force the other to leave?
Sadly, Rong Yuan only continued, "I don't think she'll accept my apology though…"
Finally, Noble Rong was right in one matter. Miss Yang would probably run at the sight of him from now on, avoiding him whenever she could.
"Noble Yu, will you help me?" All of a sudden, Rong Yuan stood up on the table and clasped his hands together. "If you help me, I'll be eternally grateful to you!"
"Help you? What help are you speaking of?" Zixu laughed on the outside, while on the inside, he admitted that if Rong Yuan left him alone,
would be the one that was eternally grateful.
"You're close with my Junior Sister, right? Can you tell me what she likes and dislikes so that I can make my apology better?"
Where did this foolish boy get the idea that Zixu was close to Miss Yang the slightest?
"I'm a bit busy these days with preparing for the
," Zixu said. This wasn't a lie.
"Imperial examinations? I can help you with that! If you cooperate with me, then I can get my father to get you a few extra connections. That would be good for you, wouldn't it?" Fervently, Rong Yuan recommended.
Zixu paused. The Yu Family did have plenty of connections already, but more wouldn't hurt considering that his status as a merchant's son still wasn't superior in comparison to the countless sons of government officials that would surely be taking the exam as well. Besides, there was still some stigma left towards merchant families since historically, merchants were prohibited from taking the exams until Xiang was founded.
The outcome of whether or not Noble Rong managed to win over Miss Yang's heart didn't matter either. The only thing that was asked of Zixu was to find out a few of her interests, and the benefits that came out of accomplishing this simple task were far more valuable.
In the end, Zixu would only benefit from agreeing to Noble Rong's demands.
So, Zixu put on his usual smile again, standing and saluting Rong Yuan as well. "If Noble Rong says it like that, then of course, I have to comply, don't I?"
Examinations used in Ancient China where individuals (scholars) who wanted to gain governmental positions/become civil servants would take.
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