When the two arrived at a lotus pond with a red-roofed pavilion resting in between all the unbloomed lotus leaves, the student respectfully saluted and said, "Here is where I was supposed to take you. I am not allowed to proceed forward, so please go on your own inside the pavilion."
Yujia frowned a bit. The pavilion did look quite picturesque, but was it really that special that even students of the school weren't allowed to enter it? Why was she able to, then, considering that she hadn't even called the old man her master yet?
Nevertheless, she followed the words of the student and cautiously walked down the circular path surrounding the pond until she saw a bridge that connected the pavilion and land, which she walked on next. The closer she neared the pavilion, the more she heard a conversation travelling into her ear that sounded like a lot of bickering and anger, making her very uncertain on what exactly was going on in the pavilion. The sound of arguing disturbed the natural peace of the pond and nature around it.
The two that were quarrelling were revealed to her when she got a little closer. It was the founder of Lingxin and Ye Yunhe, his disciple. Both were facing each other and completely absorbed in their argument, not even noticing her presence when she arrived in front of the pavilion opening.
"But Master, I just don't get it— why would you— what's the purpose of getting
as a disciple? Didn't you say that I was going to be your only disciple?"
"Huh, kid, are you getting jealous now? Does it concern you who I'm taking as a disciple? That's my decision, not yours, right?"
"I'm not jealous! It's just nice to have some bragging rights by claiming to all the others that I'm your last disciple, okay? What am I supposed to say now? That my spot as last disciple got replaced by some girl?"
"She has actual talent. More than you, if I were to say, considering how young she looks and how old you're becoming. I always have my reasons. Besides, who said that she was going to be my last disciple?"
"What, it's not like you can get more disciples after you select her since you're so old that it's a miracle that you're still ali—"
Ye Yunhe's words froze halfway, as if he realized that he was about to say something extremely disrespectful and against all teachings of filial piety.
Despite being so old, the old man caught on though, stepping forward and shaking a finger at him. "Brat, what were you going to say just now?"
"N-nothing… nothing at all…"
It was as if all the rage from before vanished in Ye Yunhe's voice, replaced by a respectful and attentive attitude of a disciple.
"I heard what you were going to say! Go ahead. Finish what you were saying."
"Master, I really wasn't saying anything… haha, I think I was spouting nonsense… I can't even remember what I was going to say…?"
"Going to act dumb now? Why don't you say it? Afraid now? Why are you so terrified when before, you held so much conviction to say what you were going to say? Huh?"
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Yujia coughed, getting attention from both of them right away.
The scrunched up face of the old man was replaced by an open grin, while Ye Yunhe's jaw unclenched and he stood taller, straightening his robes.
"You're here!" The old man exclaimed, waving for her to come over. "The kid and I were just having a…'friendly discussion' about your arrival."
Yujia put on a small smile, and saluted. "I see that your 'friendly discussion' was quite energetic, Elder."
"Energetic indeed…" He chuckled at her words, then pointed at Ye Yunhe. "That's the disciple I was talking about, and the person who you
said had worthless art! You've seen him before, so now, you can believe that I really am the founder of Lingxin because he calls me 'Master', right?"
While Yujia nodded, she could see the corners of Yunhe's eyelid twitch, but he somehow managed to keep a placid smile on his face while he saluted back to her, greeting, "Miss…?"
"Yang. Yang Yujia."
"Miss Yang," Ye Yunhe went on, "I believe that you've… insulted my work quite thoroughly in the second round of the examination. And then, you've also violated the academy's rules by lying about your identity and
your way into the academy. So, do forgive me for saying this, but I simply can't stand having someone like you as my… junior sister."
Yujia was somewhat surprised at how quickly Ye Yunhe's attitude changed from fighting like a child with his master to using civilized words to convey his enmity to her.
She didn't need to say anything though, since his master cut in for her. "Brat, you're still going on about how she apparently 'insulted' your work? It's not called an insult if it's true! What did she say again? That your work was worth less than a piece of blank paper because of the lack of emotion?"
Ye Yunhe nodded.
"Well then, what's the number one principle of the Six Principles?"
He gave his answer instantaneously. "Spirit Resonance. The energy of a work."
"Since you know that, you should now know that what she said was right!" His master hmphed and helped himself down to a seat in the middle of the pavilion. "What is the energy of the work? How is it transferred to the work through an artist, and how does it link the artist, work, and theme? Is it not partially due to the emotion that the artist carries? Your work has barely any Spirit Resonance, thus making it worthless!"
Just like the old man promised, there was a student of Lingxin waiting at the front to receive her. Yujia gave him her name, and he brought her through a new garden path that she hadn't gone through before. It seemed just as grand as the one she saw before, so she assumed that there must have been numerous garden paths like these throughout the academy.