At first, the speed by which she worked was wrong. She was pouring it too fast, then too slow, then too fast, then too slow. She worked on correcting her speed for a solid few minutes, cups after cups of tea poured. Next, the issue was the angle by which she poured. And then, there was the exact way she held the pot. She was standing with the wrong posture. The distance between the table, Yu Zixu, and her, was completely wrong. The way she presented the cup of tea, finally poured properly, also turned out to be wrong.
There were many seeming nit-picky details, but Yujia knew that if she was going to be pouring tea anytime soon in the Yang Villa, at least she had become a master at it.
She didn't think that she had this many issues before she stepped into the Yu Villa and adopted Yu Zixu as a teacher. She thought that she did fairly well during her time pretending in the Yang Villa and Lingxin. Only, in front of someone like Zixu, more and more issues appeared out of what felt like nowhere.
At the very least, Yujia was learning to correct every mistake. She was becoming perfect.
What was, possibly in the past, a decent disguise that she had, was becoming a full on second identity. Yujia had the sensation that she was developing a second ego.
After working on her tea pouring skills, Zixu gave her advice on many other things. The two went out to the middle of the courtyard again, where she walked back and forth in front of him. He, as usual, offered plenty of corrections. He then brought Shen Li out, who ran through the list of ways for servants to greet their masters and more laws involving interactions. Yujia knew most of them already, from her experience interacting with servants, but going through them acted as both a way to refine and reinforce her knowledge.
Once that part was over, Yujia was given many miscellaneous tasks to carry out, from wiping tables, chopping vegetables, sweeping the yard, dusting shelves, washing clothes, polishing antiques, carrying trays and baskets, and many more. Whatever Yu Zixu could think of, Yujia practiced.
A few hours passed like this. Zixu spent half the time reading a book, barely supervising her. Except, every single time Yujia began to wonder if he was even paying attention, he always looked up and gave her another tip that she hadn't noticed before.
Reaching the end of doing all that she could manage to practice, Yujia arrived at two major accomplishments. One, she was extremely well-trained in the art of being a maid now. Two, Yu Zixu's courtyard, which was already spotless before, was now shining in how clean it was.
She found herself exhausted at the end of the day, both physically and mentally. She could see what Zixu meant by manual labor now, since this was definitely it.
Zixu finished reading a stack of books too. Her last task occurred in the study, so Zixu sat at his desk, the pile of books he had finished resting next to him. While Yujia waited by the side for any last tasks he had to give her, he stood up and walked around the room, tapping the book in his arm as he thought.
Finally, he faced her with a smile. "You've definitely become a good maid, Yu'er."
With the sign that there was no more manual labor coming up for her, Yujia threw a mini celebration in her head. She didn't let any sign of this relief show on the outside, in fear that it would become another point for Young Master Yu to pick on. Looking up at Zixu, Yujia waited for him to say anything else.
"I—" Opening his mouth, Zixu seemed like he was about to say a word, but he quickly bit it back. He turned away, taking a few more steps in the opposite direction.
Yujia followed, keeping always a perfect distance between her and Zixu. There was a very specific distance that a maid should keep between her and her master, from what she learned.
Zixu was always someone who mused over every single word before he allowed it to roll out his mouth. He spoke with few stammers, few mistakes, and few moments of hesitation, giving him an eloquent way of speech that was difficult to copy. It was also what Yujia believed to be the reason for why Zixu had a way of drawing attention and respect to him when he spoke.
Seeing him stutter like this— to say something, and halt in saying it the moment after uttering the first word— was definitely a rare sight. He wasn't drunk or discussing an emotional topic either.
In a tentative manner, Yujia urged, "Young Master, is there anything else you need?" She was curious to see why Zixu faltered like that.
"I wondered, for a brief moment, if I should tell you something. But I decided not to. Not yet." He faced her again, a small smile across his lips. His eyes looked at her with a different gaze, one that was sly and knowing, as if he knew that keeping a secret like this from her would frustrate her.
And he was right. It bothered Yujia. A lot.
"Young Master, this maid would recommend telling it now rather than later," Yujia continued to urge, "Perhaps later, Young Master would forget."
She knew Yu Zixu would not forget. But still, she wanted to know right now. There were enough mysteries in her life already.
"Would you really like to know?"
Yujia nodded to his words in response.
"Alright then. But don't blame me for speaking too early." Zixu took a step closer and leaned forward to her. One of the last dimming rays of sunlight filtered through the paper windows, catching perfectly on his strong features. His next words were soft, stuck between a whisper and a confession.
"I think, the more time I spend with you, the more I like you."
Yujia wanted to check if she heard right.
So many memories flashed in her mind, from countless times in the past where she heard wrong or misinterpreted Zixu's words in wrong ways. Most of the time, he meant innocent things that she took in completely incorrect ways.
This had to be another one of those situations. Yujia was more than wary. Zixu probably meant it in a friendly way.
"Young Master…" Yujia began, her voice trailing.
"I'm being serious," Zixu continued, "Let's step outside of this entire Young Master and Yu'er deal. The more time that I spend with you, the more that I think that I'm falling in love. What should I do about these feelings, hm?"
Yujia's emotions promptly skyrocketed into emergency mode.
She was pretty sure that she wasn't hearing wrong this time.
But at the same time, Yujia had been traumatized way too many times in the past with Yu Zixu's antics. She really couldn't believe him anymore. He was probably messing with her. This was another test.
Gritting her teeth, Yujia managed to blurt out, "Young Master, please do not mess with this maid like this." It was difficult to keep her composure, but she managed to.
She thought about it some more. Zixu had to be messing with her. There was no way any normal person would make a confession like this, in the same manner that he did.
Only, Zixu's next words made Yujia really rethink.
"Do you seriously think that I would joke about something like this?" Zixu stated, "I know that you may think of this as another test, but it's not. Yang Yujia, I think I'm falling in love with you."
'Oh sh*t,' was the only phrase going through Yujia's mind.
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