For a few moments, Zixu paused, thinking about her words. She said that he looked like this "him". Except, who in this world was this "him"? He couldn't think of anyone in the capital that shared the same, or a similar face, to him. He was generally fairly observant of people, so he should notice if he had a doppelganger walking around, right?
Zixu racked his head for people who resembled him the slightest. It was hard to come up with any faces. He began to walk in the direction that he presumed was Yujia's room while continuing the process of thinking about faces, holding her in front of him in his arms. Was it possible that it was someone he didn't know? Who would that be, then? Or did he actually know this person?
He thought about Ye Yunhe. Miss Yang seemed fairly close to that Senior Brother of hers. Could she be talking about him, when she said that Zixu looked like him so much? Zixu did share the same face shape as Ye Yunhe, with both of them having fairly long faces. Their noses were both thin and narrow as well, with high bridges. Except, other than that, the two looked nothing alike in other manners. Ye Yunhe's eyes were very different, and just the arrangement of features on his face made him a distinctly different person from Zixu. Zixu was also taller than Yunhe by more than half a head. The two of them would never be confused for each other.
But who else could she be talking about? It had to be someone he didn't know then.
Though if it was Ye Yunhe… Zixu thought back to her words. They seemed filled with melancholy. Could it be that she had a relationship with her senior brother that was a bit— well— closer than the average disciple relationship?
Zixu internally shook his head at that thought. He was thinking too much into this. He really shouldn't be trying to pry into her private life so much, but he was just so curious. It was almost taunting to be given a vague hint without any clear direction.
No matter what, he acknowledged that though he could make his speculations, he could only come up with theories without definite answers. Zixu didn't particularly like that. So, he stopped thinking about it the moment he set her down on her bed. Tomorrow, he was mostly free, but he also needed to continue to prepare for more future examinations. It would be a good idea to study, then.
Just like that, Zixu planned out his entire next day. He said with a whisper, "Goodnight, Yujia," then turned, about to leave.
That was when he saw an individual standing at the doorway.
Yue Ze, the founder of Lingxin, was an old, old man.
And as an old, old man, it was inevitable that he had some sleep problems. He was often an insomniac at night, and when he finally fell asleep in the morning, he would only wake up at noon. People, particularly his bratty disciple Ye Yunhe, often told him that it was unhealthy for him to do so, but he could honestly care less. What was the point of caring for his health? He was past seventy and somehow still alive, despite the fact that he kept these unhealthy habits they always criticized him for.
In fact, he would probably be happier if he could just leave this bothersome world and find some peace for himself. For his next life, he would like to become a simple blade of grass minding his own business in a spring field. At least in that reincarnation, he could quietly meditate and do all the things he never got a chance to do in this life, which was filled with chaos and energy.
That was mainly his thought process until he received his last disciple, Yang Yujia. That girl was a bit irksome at times, he admitted. But at least she reminded him of someone else, so he wouldn't mind dealing with her antics for just a bit. He wanted to see her succeed in her goals, to complete the same motives that the someone else once had. Because of that, Yue Ze decided to stay alive for a couple more years more to support his young disciple.
He was slowly walking back to his courtyard as usual this evening. It was getting late, but he was playing a game of chess with Ye Xuanhe in the pavilion that took longer than usual. That was the reason for why he was only heading back by now.
While he passed by the courtyard that kid, Yujia, stayed in, he peered inside with a glance, noticing that the lanterns and candles were all lit. That was peculiar. At this hour, she should be asleep already, so the servants should've extinguished most of the lanterns and blown out the candles. Since they were all lit, there was only one reason.
What was she doing in this late hour?
Yue Ze flattened his lips into a thin line, walking through the opening arch of her courtyard. He looked around the courtyard, which was still empty. As he passed through, he noticed an overturned cup of wine and an empty jug. His eyes glanced back towards that kid's bedroom, noticing that it was the one that was the brightest.
And in that room, there was the standing shadow of… a man?
He paused in his steps.
Ai, what was this girl doing in this hour! Ridiculous!
He gave her room and board because he wanted to be kind to his disciple, but this was absolutely ridiculous— he wouldn't tolerate things like this happening under his roof! Not without marriage first!
With more energy now, Yue Ze strode in the direction of her room with long strides. The door was already open, so he stood there in the doorframe, taking in the scene in front of him.
The good news was that both were perfectly clothed. There was no improper scene in front of him.
Thank the heavens.
Yue Ze released a deep breath of relief. He headed in here without putting much thought to it, and he wasn't so sure how he would react if he saw what he expected to see playing out in front of him.
His disciple, that kid, Yujia, was lying on her bed, while someone else— the shadow of a man he saw earlier— stood by the side. He whispered something quietly, then spun around.
The moment their eyes met, they both froze.
Yue Ze stared at the young man in front of him, squinting his eyes to get a better look at this individual's face. After about three seconds, he concluded he didn't know this boy.
Meanwhile, the emotions on this young man's face morphed from blank and expressionless to one of innocent surprise, with large eyes and lifted eyebrows. He immediately dropped to his knees, kneeling and clasping his hands in front of him.
"Pardon me, Elder Yue."
"Ah? You know me?" Yue Ze continued narrowing his eyes. He did not recognize this boy. He didn't think that they ever met. So how did he get recognized by this stranger? Since his identity was exposed, he looked at the boy through a lidded gaze, straightening his back. He coughed, turning his voice deeper. "Indeed, I am. Since you know me, should you not be reporting your identity right now?"
A calm smile surfaced on the other's face. He replied, "I am Yu Zixu, the first son of Yu Jianhui, and a student of Lingxin Academy."
"A student, hm?"
Then, it made sense that this young man was a stranger. Yue Ze didn't generally recognize the students of this academy. He used to try in the past, but in recent years, he just gave up. There were too many faces for his old brain to keep up with. The only faces he still remembered belonged to the brat, Ye Yunhe, the kid, Yang Yujia, and a few other disciples from the head, Ye Xuanhe.
But Yu Zixu… that name seemed familiar. Yue Ze thought about it for quite a while before finally recalling where it seemed familiar from. The one with the surname of Yu was the individual who scored the highest overall on the entrance examination to Lingxin a while back. The Yu household was also where Yu Ziyang, the person Yujia impersonated, was from.
Yue Ze had seen this Yu Zixu's painting-work in the third round of examinations, and he admired that the boy showed quite a bit of talent and skill. He even considered taking Zixu in as a disciple if he didn't take Yujia as his last disciple. Ye Xuanhe was eyeing Yu Zixu as a personal disciple as well, and as much as Yue Ze treated the school head like he was obnoxious on the outside, the two had a long, long friendship of pure bickering. So, it would be wrong to steal the kid that old man Xuanhe had his eyes on.
As a result of all of this, he had a fairly good impression of Yu Zixu. Even so, however…
"How dare you!" he proclaimed, his voice firm. Yue Ze raised an arm, shaking it at the boy's direction, "This girl right here is my personal disciple. Do you not acknowledge your wrongs for being with her alone so late at night? Do you not care for any decency? Or if not that, at least think about the reputation of my disciple!"
Truth be told, it was somewhat fun to yell at students at times. They wouldn't be able to respond with any retorts but fear. Yue Ze didn't do it frequently, but on the rare occasions that he did, it was honestly amusing.
After his words, Yue Ze expected the slightest signs of similar fear to appear on the young man. Perhaps his hands would shake, sweat would bead at his forehead, or he would blink rapidly. Instead, Yu Zixu only maintained the same smile, bowing his head to the ground.
"Elder Yue, forgive this one for his insolent actions. Yuj— Miss Yang invited me for a cup of wine, and I found that in the situation, it would be rude of me to reject. I didn't know that just after a few cups, she would pass out. I thought it would be improper to leave her outside— she might catch a cold— so I brought her inside. I sincerely did not hold any ill intention, and I hope that Elder Yue will excuse me for my lack of thinking things through completely."
The words flowed smoothly out of the boy's mouth, not a single beat of hesitation within his voice. The only moment of pause was when he nearly said Yujia instead of "Miss Yang".
That one mistake was also something that Yue Ze surely caught onto.
Still, though, Yue Ze admitted that he appreciated an individual with eloquence. He liked someone who had their thoughts all gathered together and organized. It wasn't the kind of person he was, but he found people like this easy to interact with.
"Raise your head," he commanded. With Yu Zixu's face now looking up, he eyed Yu Zixu again. "You're close with my disciple?" This was question he already guessed the answer to.
"Close? I'm afraid that we're not too—"
"Oh stop. You're drinking companions. How would you two not be close?" Yue Ze waved his hand, though his eyes were still fixed on Yu Zixu's face.
This Yu Zixu didn't look too shabby. He had good features. He had talent in painting. He also had a decent family background. Yujia also seemed to be on good terms with this young man.
Yue Ze found that the more he stared at the boy's face, the more comfortable it was to look at him.
His disciple liked to drink alcohol with this Yu Zixu. She also displayed a clear interest in the arts and those that had an interest in it. Yue Ze looked over at her lying on the bed behind Zixu, imagining the two of them standing together.
Ah. That would make a pretty sight.
A small smile began to creep onto his face. Yu Zixu really wasn't that bad of a person. He even showed that he cared about Yujia's well being, by thinking so thoroughly about whether or not she would catch a cold if she was left outside. And he showed that he knew about the rules of etiquette, but he was willing to risk setting aside a few with the sole motive of bringing her back to her room, where she would be safer. He also showed that he held no bad motives by turning around so quickly, not taking advantage of the girl when she was unconscious.
Someone like him would take care of the reckless person Yue Ze's disciple was, wouldn't he?
"What's your age?" Yue Ze asked after a brief moment.
Yu Zixu replied simply, "Twenty-four."
"Are you wedded?"
Immediately, Yu Zixu's eyes, which were glued down all this time, flicked up.
"You heard me right. Are you wedded? Or do you have a few concubines?"
The calm smile on the young man's face dropped. "No," he answered slowly, shaking his head, "This student desires dedicated to the arts. A concubine or wife would only be distracting."
"Hm." Yue Ze flattened his lips into a thin line. Which young man at twenty-four didn't desire any sort of woman? Only the brat, Ye Yunhe, was like that. Was Yu Zixu… the same? This thought brought a bit of hesitation from him. He finally continued to ask, just to make sure, "Do you plan to marry in a year or two?"
"If… I find the right person, yes?"
"And… do you perhaps… feel there's a right person emerging into your life right now?"
Yu Zixu's head tilted. He paused for a long moment before replying, "Possibly?"
That was the answer Yue Ze was looking for. Possibly was better than nothing! A wide grin immediately appeared on his face and he clapped his hands. "Good!"
He appreciated someone who had a dedication to art! He appreciated someone who held a good, respectable stature! He appreciated someone who was… er— physically aesthetic— when held next to his disciple!
With all three of those things checked off his list of requirements, Yue Ze decided that this was the perfect time to play matchmaker!
He had always wanted to do this for someone. He tried with Ye Yunhe, but that brat was a failure. What better person would be his best next victim than Yang Yujia, his precious, wonderful, and talented last disciple?
Yu Zixu and Yang Yujia… weren't they very matching with each other in every way conceivable?
Still, though, Yue Ze didn't want to jump to instant conclusions. He still didn't know this young man very well, after all. It would be better to take his time to slowly get to know him well before trying to set him up with Yujia.
Yue Ze continued to smile, though, while he gestured for Yu Zixu to stand up. He patted the shoulder of the young man, saying brightly, "Well then, Yu Zixu, was it? It was nice to have this conversation with you today. From here on out, don't call me 'Elder'. Just call me 'Master'."
Yu Zixu clasped and bowed. When he raised his head, he inquired, "That wouldn't be proper though, would it? I'm only student of Lingxin, not a disciple…"
"I'm not so tight on rules." Yue Ze shrugged. "And who says you're not a disciple?"
He turned and began to walk out of the room, his hands folded behind his back.
"Wait," Zixu strode after him, "Could Master clarify?"
Yue Ze didn't pause a single step or turn the slightest to the one rushing after him, waving his hand. "The night is late. You should return home! All things will unfold naturally. Do not rush your knowledge."
With that, he left the courtyard, a big grin on his face.