Dim sunlight illuminated the shelves and shelves of books and scrolls. The library was arranged in a way that there were ten sections divided into two spaces. Each space contained four rows of tall shelves filled with books and one section for a central opening, which was the space for a couple of tables and cushions for a few people to study at. On the only wall in the room that didn't contain a door or window, there were a couple of large paintings of overlapping mountains that Yujia thought were all excellent works even with only a glance.
Yunhe, upon seeing the amazed look on Yujia's face, explained, "This is one of Lingxin's important treasures. If you want to know anything about painting, here's the place. There are biographies on artists, books on art theory, other books involving paintings, and also many collected paintings. Many works are even in the form of a scroll instead of paper-bound books since they're the original works from history."
He walked a few steps into the library, running a hand along a shelf. Yujia followed after him until he stopped, picking up a book and handing it to Yujia. "This one's on the Six Elements," he laughed, "Junior Sister should need this."
Yujia took the book from him with her free hand that wasn't holding the box and made a face. "Junior thanks Senior Brother for the recommendation," she muttered, flipping through the delicate pages before putting the book back to its old place. "And thank you for saving me before."
Yunhe waved his hand. "It's not a big deal."
A moment of hesitation passed, and then Yujia asked, "Am I… allowed to be here? Why are you here?"
"This is the school center; why wouldn't you be allowed here?" His thin eyebrows creased.
"Really?" Yujia glanced back in the direction of the other room, where the school head was teaching. "I thought it was a personal classroom…"
"No." Yunhe shook his head. "Those six students you saw were merely my father's disciples. That was why they're learning here. You're here early, and you just coincidentally ran into the timing of their morning lesson."
Yunhe lead the way to one of the seats in the bookshelves. He sat down at one that looked like he was sitting in before he brought Yujia over, and he gestured for Yujia to sit across from him.
She sat down, then began, "Where's Master? I came to talk to him."
A wry smile appeared on Yunhe's lips. "You should know from now on that Master likes to sleep in. He usually doesn't wake up until late in the afternoon. It would be a miracle if he was awake this early."
"Why are you here then?" Yujia tilted her head.
"I like being in the library." He gave her a light shrug, and continued, "Only disciples of my father or our master are allowed to go in here, so it's usually a quiet and good place to learn. I… want to improve in painting and have my name in history… so, I want to learn as much as I can to better myself."
Yujia decided to be frankly honest with him. She thought back to her past experiences in her old life and said, "I wanted that too. When I first started art and painting and all that, I thought it would be easy to get my name held up with the professionals and have my name passed down through generations as a true master at art. But then, I realized, it wasn't as easy as that."
"It's not just difficult for you; it's… impossible," Yunhe replied, his words slow.
"Do you think that too, Senior Brother?" She leaned her chin on her hand and sighed.
He quickly waved his hands in front of him. "No— I don't mean to discourage you! It's just that.. How often have you heard of famous painters being women?"
"Never, as of right now. But that will change." Yujia said with a solid nod. "In the future that I know, there are plenty of female artists. Their names will be known by so many."
The future I know
'?" he repeated after her, "How do you know? Junior Sister, are you from the future?" He gave a short laugh along with what he intended as a joke.
Was she from the future? Yes, she was.
And in that future, despite having so many more rights as a woman, how much more successful was she, as an artist? If she wanted to take painting seriously in this time period, she could blame her lack of success on the bias towards women of this time. But in modern times, what was she supposed to blame for her failure?
Could she even blame anything but herself?
If she wanted to be successful as an artist in her old life, what did she need to change about herself to do so?
In that moment, Yujia realized that there was absolutely something wrong with her mindset, behavior, personality, or just
about her old self, and perhaps her current self as well. And if she wanted to succeed in this life, she had to change herself to prevent herself from making the same mistakes that she made in the past.
But what was it? Was it a single trait that she held, or was it a series of mistakes and bad choices that led to her ultimate ending of becoming an alcoholic who had no more hope for her future?
What was Yujia supposed to do to change herself? Where had it all gone wrong?
She wanted immediate answers, but sitting there, staring blankly at nothing, Yujia found that she didn't know. There were too many possibilities, too many wrong decisions, and too many traits she held that she could account for it all.
She originally thought that being given a new opportunity at everything was a blessing, but how did she know that she wasn't going to be like before and drag herself down again? If she were to live her old life in the modern world again, what was she supposed to do to prevent life spiraling out of her control again?
Yunhe seemed to notice her lack of a response, and with worry, he apologized, "Junior Sister, sorry if the joke went too far…? Was it perhaps too personal?"
Yujia blinked all of her messy thoughts away and shook her head with slow movement. "No… no, you're fine. I just… spaced out a little."
"Oh, that's good then. I thought I upset you somehow." He smiled again, then asked, "So, did you meet with the pretend Third Young Master, yesterday? How did that go?"
She gave him an answer she put little thought into— something along the lines that he must've been mistaken— while her thoughts trailed back to her previous state of confusion.
The conversation went on, but all Yujia could think about was the echoing question in her head.
What did she need to change about herself?
Turning her head, Yujia saw what appeared to be a spacious library.
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