Xiaoyi stared. "That's… your response?"
"Why not?" Yujia nodded and looked up as she thought about it. "You had a rather acceptable explanation, and now my curiosity is solved. I no longer have questions, and it's obvious that I should move onto the next priority, which is what you came here for: to learn."
"Ah… then, I guess since you asked me a question, am I allowed to ask you one back?" Xiaoyi proposed.
"Sure." Yujia sat forward again, interested in seeing what question Xiaoyi had for her.
"When did you truly learn how to paint?" she asked, quickly following it up with some explanation, "I mean— it's impossible to be able to know all of this," she waved at the art in front of her, "within a week!"
At this question, Yujia pursed her lips. A few days ago, where she displayed her painting skills to the household, she did say that she learned how to paint a week ago. But if Xiaoyi was to ask a question like this, it definitely meant that she didn't believe what Yujia claimed.
What was she supposed to say though? That she had six years of painting experience from when she went to college to when she transmigrated over? It wouldn't be believable if she said she started painting since she was twelve and no one in the household knew about it.
So, Yujia made up a simple lie to respond. "I learned a few things about painting when I was visiting the market around a year ago and met a vendor with interesting art. He taught me a few of his techniques, and that was about it. He claimed that I had talent, but I never really got interested in it until the time that I told the rest of the household."
At the words of this mysterious vendor, Xiaoyi moved a little closer, her eyes lighting up. "Did you catch the name of the vendor? Who was he?"
Yujia shook her head. Give her ten seconds to think of a lie, and she could come up with one, but names were trickier. "No; I only met him once or twice, and I never thought to ask his name because of that."
"Aw." A look of disappointment reflected from Xiaoyi's face. "So, it's really talent isn't it? Some people like you just have more innate talent than people like me."
"Don't worry too much about it. Talent doesn't count for much in the long run; it's hard work that brings true results. As long as you spend some more time studying and find a good master, I'm sure you'll get better at painting than me in no time."
Yujia's advice was sincere. Xiaoyi wasn't that bad at learning art herself, so it was really the fact that Yujia came from the future and had so many more years of experience that gave her an upper hand. If she didn't, she doubted that she would be much better than Xiaoyi was right now.
Xiaoyi thought about those words for a few more moments, and then she nodded in agreement. "Alright then, big sister, can I test the fading technique again just to make sure I got it down?"
When Xiaoyi left, Yujia gestured for Hui'er to sit down across from her.
"What are your thoughts about all of this?" she asked while moving her pencils back into the box, staring at the few fading mountains that Xiaoyi painted a few moments ago.
"Truthfully… I'm not sure…" Hui'er replied, her words slow as she thought about them, "I mean, what's to stop her from not lying? How do you know that her story is true?"
Hearing this, Yujia narrowed her eyes. Hui'er had a point. What if the Fifth Miss did lie? Considering the fact that Yang Yichen, the Second Miss, was not in the household, there was no one to confirm her story with. But even so…
"If she did lie," Yujia started, "what motives would she have for doing so? What could she possibly gain from me?" She ran her fingers through a strand of loose hair. "That's the thing— there's nothing that I can lose. Nothing eventful happened two years ago, right?"
Hui'er nodded in agreement.
"Then, there's definitely nothing that she could've gained through getting closer with me besides just… pure friendship. Can you think of something else?"
At this question, Hui'er thought for a few moments, then looked up. "You're right. There's no logical reason that she would talk to you about anything else."
"I guess for now then, I should trust her, shouldn't I?" Yujia rolled up the loose paper scrolls, standing up and carrying them to the cabinets where they belonged. As much as Hui'er was used to always cleaning up after her, it still felt a little weird to not have to do some of the organizing once in a while.
From behind her, Yujia heard Hui'er point out, "But what if there's just something that she's planning, and we just haven't thought about it yet?"
Yujia turned, her eyebrows raised. "Hui'er, it really only comes down to the fact that I have nothing to lose. When you have nothing to lose, it's easy to build trust in others. Besides," she turned back to the cabinets, closing the doors once the papers were in there and continued, "if one day, something really does happen, I'll just break this temporary trust that I have. That's not a hard thing to do for anybody, not just the Fifth Miss."
She intended this as a warning to Hui'er as well, as well as a reminder to herself. The more time she spent in this world, the more she realized the complicated connections that were involved in the Yang household. She placed trust in Hui'er after hearing her story, but it didn't mean that she should continue to hold absolute trust in her. The same went with Yang Xiaoyi.
Trust was always needed to some degree for her to continue on in her life, but it didn't mean that she had to blindly follow it until the end.
"I understand, Miss," Hui'rer acknowledged, showing that she realized the warning behind Yujia's words.
"Good," Yujia smiled, sitting back at the table and pouring both herself and Hui'er a cup of tea. "Then, let's get back to Yang Xiaoyi's story. She mentioned before that Madam Zhang didn't particularly like me or my mother. Why is that? Do you know the details?"
"It could be just because you're not her child. Isn't it normal for women to be jealous about the other women who have relationships with their husband?" Hui'er paused, but quickly changed her mind, saying, "No— wait— that doesn't make sense. She would dislike the Fifth Miss and the Second Miss more then, wouldn't she, since they're the daughters of the Old Master's official concubine?"
The two thought about it for a while longer, but neither of them could come up with an answer that made sense. It was yet another loose end that Yujia needed to figure out, adding even more tasks on her list.
"Whatever." Yujia sighed and dismissed the thought. "It's not that important anyways whether or not she likes me— let's just focus on the more important things right now. Pencils."
Hui'er agreed and the two of them got to planning, putting the irrelevant things to the back of their minds.
Once Xiaoyi finished her story, Yujia leaned back in her chair. There were a few moments of silence, and then Yujia simply stated, "Okay. Is there anything else in particular you're interested in learning about painting today?"