She didn't believe what her senior brother said at first, but as he explained, he knew the Bo Family fairly well, and he was perfectly confident that there was no such person as the Third Young Master. Yujia didn't know why Yunhe would lie to her, considering that they were junior and senior siblings now, but she was still wary since if she trusted one individual, it would be impossible to trust the other individual.
Originally, Yunhe wanted to go with her to see who this "Bo Zhizhong" was, but Yujia convinced him that it wasn't necessary. She thought that she was capable of asking Zhizhong herself, and she felt like he might be more inclined to tell her the truth if it was just the two of them without Yunhe.
If things turned out bad, and he ended up being a fraud, she might as well just cut off relationships with him and ask her master to fund her again. Or, she would just use the money she earned off selling paintings to buy her way out of the marriage, since she was confident that as long as she asked her master, Lingxin's marketplace would be open to her too.
In the end, it just didn't particularly matter to her if Bo Zhizhong was fake. If he was really telling the truth, well then, good for her. If he wasn't, then she wouldn't be harmed much either.
She held the box of pencils in her hand carefully as she walked down the streets, looking for the inn that they agreed to meet at. The moment she found it, she stopped at the entrance and took a deep breath before walking in, looking for Bo Zhizhong. After walking around all the tables and seeing that he wasn't there, she decided to ask one of the waiters.
"Waiter," she called out, "have you seen a young man or boy around eighteen years old and wearing expensive clothes, possibly a red cape around here?"
The waiter stopped at what he was doing, which was wiping an empty table. He slung the towel over his shoulder and shook his head, replying, "No, but if you're looking for someone of high status, perhaps you should ask the manager. He might have a reservation. Just ask the manager at the front with the name of the person you're meeting up with, and he should have an answer for you."
"Alright, thank you." Yujia smiled politely and went to ask the manager for Bo Zhizhong.
Upon hearing the name, a broad smile lit up on the manager's face. "Noble Bo? Of course, he's right upstairs in a private dining area. Follow me up please, Young Miss."
Yujia walked with the manager up a set of wooden stairs, arriving at an area with many divided rooms. They took a left turn and the manager stopped at one of the doors, opening it and gesturing for Yujia to enter. She gave her thanks and entered the room.
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The moment she entered, she could tell that the environment was completely different than the busy restaurant-style first floor of the inn. It was much more quiet, and Yujia could catch the light scent of incense wafting through the air. It wasn't a very large room, but the ceiling was high to make it seem more spacious. Besides a large wooden table and a few decorative plants and statues towards the side, there was nothing else. Clearly, it was a room for private dining.
Zhizhong sat at the table, sipping a cup of tea when Yujia arrived. He grinned and waved her over. "You're here!"
Yujia took a seat at the table, marvelling at the numerous dishes on the table. She recognized a few of them from what Zhizhong ordered last night, but besides those plates, there were also many other things present. In the middle of the table was a steaming bowl of thick soup that included finely sliced tofu and fish. Surrounding it included plates of braised beef, fresh and plump bamboo shoots, crisp cucumber mixed with spices, delicate pea sprouts, sweet and sour pork, and most of all, what Yujia was looking for all this time: a plate of glorious roasted duck, looking just as good as the one her master ate.
Her mouth began to water when Zhizhong started speaking. "I ordered when I arrived because I didn't want to have you wait too long. There might be another plate on the way, but otherwise, they're all here. They're all the best plates in the house this season!"
"That's such an impressive feast," Yujia shook her head in disbelief. "How are we even going to eat all of that?"
"I didn't know what you would like, so I ordered some of everything. If today, I officially become your investor, I think it's only right that I treat you to a good meal." He shrugged.
Yujia imagined herself getting stuffed until she was completely full. By that time, the table will likely still have near-full platters.
The meal in front of her was a feast for at least six people, not two. There was going to be so much wasted food at the end of this meal. Yujia could already feel her heart hurting even though the meal hadn't even started yet. All the food smelled heavenly.
"Was I late?" she asked while sipping at her cup of tea that Zhizhong poured for her, "I hope not."
He shook his head with a laugh. "Nope, you're fine. I tend to like to arrive a little bit earlier, so it's not a big deal."
"Great. Should we talk about the invention now?" Yujia opened her box of pencils and took out a few. Because the diameter of the table was so wide, she had to stand up and hand it to him.
Accepting them, his eyes observed the pencil carefully. "So, you just draw with them?"
"Pretty much. I don't have paper on me right now, so it's a bit difficult to demonstrate. Essentially, this is a hollow wooden cylinder that I call a pencil. There's a tube of graphite and clay mixture inside the hollowed out center. The graphite allows whatever one chooses to draw on the paper to appear. The tip does dull down the more it's used though, so that's why a small blade can be used to scrape it back to a sharp tip. This also means that unlike a brush, which can last years, a pencil will wear down over time."
Zhizhong passed his finger over the lettering at the side of the pencil. "What does this say?"
The label at the side of the pencil was what Yujia used to differentiate the darkness of the pencils. To anyone but her, it was pure nonsense since they didn't know the English alphabet or Arabic numerals. She forgot that she might need to explain the symbols to him.
Exhaling deeply, Yujia took her box of pencils and moved to a seat closer to Zhizhong. She took all ten of the pencils and laid them out on the table, in order from lightest to darkest. There were supposed to be twenty pencils based on the entire scale, but because in the start, she had a limited budget, she only made ten of the pencils she thought might be what she needed more.
"I invented a sort of organizational system to give each pencil a category," she explained, "It's a bunch of random characters. The first one is called nine 'H'. This symbol with a little curve and line stands for nine."
"Ay-cher?" Zhizhong repeated after her, his eyebrows tucked together.
Yujia smiled a little at his pronunciation. "Yes, 'H'."
"Ay-ch…" he muttered, pointing at the rest of the pencils. "What do those say?"
Her finger resting on each pencil, Yujia pointed and named all of them. "9H, 5H, 2H, F, HB, B, 2B, 4B, 6B, and 9B."
"Nine ay-ch, eh-fu, Nine bi…" After a long moment of thinking, Zhizhong looked up at her in the eyes and shook his head. "I don't think this system is going to work. Why didn't you just stick with traditional numbers?"
She didn't stick with them, because who knew that in the future, she would be selling her pencils? It was purely a system made for only her to understand in this time period.
"Do you want to rename them?"
"I think it'll be for the better if they're renamed. This way, people can understand them better," Zhizhong proposed, "How about we just use normal numbers for each of the pencils? The lightest would be one, and then the darkest would be ten. No need to complicate things. "
"That works." Yujia nodded without much thought. What Zhizhong proposed was reasonable, and it would be a system that others would be able to understand quicker. For her own pencils, Yujia still wasn't sure if she wanted to move to simply numbering or to stick to her old system, but she supposed that she could decide in the future.
With the matter settled, Zhizhong moved onto the next topic. "Let's talk about investments and keep it simple. I don't want this to be too complicated. Name me as the inventor of your product— I'll pay a good amount of a few gold taels— and then most of the profit can go to you. How much of a percentage do you want?"
"Hold on." Yujia was reaching with her chopsticks for a piece of duck, but she paused, setting her chopsticks down on her bowl. "Did you say that… you want to be called the
He nodded. "Yeah."
Yujia shrunk back. "Why? What's the point of calling you the inventor?"
"I have personal reasons." He fiddled with the corner of his sleeve.
Upon hearing his response, Yujia thought back to what Yunhe said about Bo Zhizhong.
The Bo Family has no Third Young Master.
She had her suspicions over his identity from the start. And now, with him suggesting something like making himself the inventor of her pencils, she was only more suspicious. It would be a good time to confront him about it.
"I still don't understand," Yujia spoke, finding her words rushed for some particular reason, "It's
created it. Why would you— how would it benefit you— to claim it as yours? 'Personal' reasons just doesn't cut it for me. It doesn't make sense."
He turned to face her more. "I'm not sure how to explain it. It really is a personal reason."
"Well then, I have another question that I'm sure you can have an explanation to. If I were to give you the credit of inventing my pencils, then I have to at least trust your identity. So far, I still can't confirm that you're who you are. Where's the solid evidence that you're really the Third Young Master?"
Zhizhong tapped his fingers on the table. "You want proof?" He stood up, gesturing for her to follow him. "Come on."
Yujia remained seated, her eyes glancing to the lovely uneaten duck on the table. "Where are we going? What about the food?"
"Oh, we can come back if you want." He gave her a look of blatant impatience."Didn't you say that you wanted proof that I'm really the Third Young Master? Let's go to the Bo Villa. Surely, there will be plenty of proof there!"
After a brief moment of hesitation, Yujia stood up. "Alright, let's go."
Yujia was now walking through the streets to the inn she agreed to meet up with Bo Zhizhong at. Or, as it seemed, someone who could possibly be lying to her all along and wasn't some Bo Zhizhong.