When Yujia returned back to her courtyard, she came across Xie Yufeng again. Obviously, since Yufeng was residing in her courtyard, it would be difficult not to run into the girl. It wasn't something Yujia disliked either. It was nice to not have an empty courtyard.
Considering that her schedule was mostly clear, Yujia began humming as she went to fetch her oil painting supplies. She called out to Yufeng, asking, "Have you ever painted?"
Yufeng shook her head. "Nope."
"Are you interested?" Yujia asked, setting out the supplies on an outside table.
"Never tried," she replied tersely. "People like me have no point in learning the arts."
Yujia was about to say something about "no self-depreciation", but she realized that Yufeng was not insulting herself, rather telling the truth. Yufeng did seem to have a strange background, but she currently held the identity of a maid, and maids definitely didn't have any purpose in learning art.
"You should still give it a try," Yujia ended up suggesting, "Who knows? You could be a secret genius."
Yufeng gave her a look of great disbelief. She then looked down at the paintbrush Yujia held, and the glass palette with the peculiar oil paints. "Your supplies… look strange," she noted.
Replying with a short nod, Yujia said, "These are not typical painting supplies. It's oil paint."
"Let me demonstrate."
With a small smile, Yujia propped up the canvas and began painting. After not painting for more than a week, it was truly relaxing to get back into the activity.
While Yujia mixed her paints— she decided that she wanted to paint a waterfall which would require both light gray-blues and dark, vivid greens— she asked Yufeng, "So, what are your plans? You are welcome to stay here for as long as you need, but are you going to depart anytime soon? And where will you go?"
Yufeng looked to the side, thinking. "I'm not sure."
"You're not sure?" Yujia echoed.
"I… had plans. But these plans changed. And now, I'm not sure. I would have to think about them some more."
"Is that so, Yufeng?" Her paintbrush dipped into white paint, beginning by applying some onto the canvas.
Yufeng was silent, watching her paint. During the few times that Yujia glanced back, she noticed that Yufeng didn't seem all too focused. Her brain seemed to be thinking of something else.
As Yujia began to form the general shapes of her waterfall and mountains with the dark, vivid greens, Yufeng suddenly spoke up, blurting a phrase that took Yujia by surprise.
"My name is not Xie Yufeng."
Slowly, the paintbrush in Yujia's hand lowered, bending away from the canvas. She turned around just as slowly, asking one word:
The young woman behind Yujia repeated, her voice steady and firm, "My name is not Xie Yufeng."
Yujia set the paintbrush on the palette. She inclined her head, eyebrows knitting, "Then… you are?"
"I don't have a name."
"How can that be?" Yujia no longer stood, taking a step to sit across the table from Yufeng.
"That has just always been the case," the young woman explained, her tone calm as if not having a name was an everyday subject, "My first memories are being called 'girl.' And then… someone else gave me a name. But it is not my name anymore. So, I have no name."
"Where did… 'Xie Yufeng' come from, then?" Yujia insisted, still utterly confused.
"It's the name of a dead girl. I wore her identity."
The young woman was not smiling, but she was not showing any other signs of emotion either. She seemed detached, almost, as if her experiences were merely the story of a stranger. Yet again, it was one of those times where she didn't explain right away, and Yujia didn't feel like it would be appropriate to ask either. However, the distant attitude the girl wore didn't seem to help.
Who was this person in front of Yujia? How many of the things that Yujia knew about her were solely lies?
"I was supposed to take her identity and leave the capital, when the time came," she went on, "only now, I don't think I want that."
Yujia bit her lip. The palms of her hands were sweating, a bit, out of pure nervous energy. Her wariness of the person in front of her only continued to grow. "What do you want, then?"
"I'm not sure, like I said before." Finally, "Yufeng" smiled. "I'm still thinking."
"How long will it take for you to make a decision?"
"I'm not sure of an answer for that either. Perhaps I will decide in days. Or perhaps months."
Thinking back to how "Yufeng" saved her life before, and how "Yufeng" was being straightforward and blunt right now, Yujia folded her hands on the table. Even if the person in front of her was not "Yufeng", "Yufeng" was only a name that she wore. Yujia still knew about this young woman's morals. She still knew the kind of person that "Yufeng" was, from the bits and pieces she picked up throughout their interactions. Her wariness receded while she came to this conclusion.
Yujia informed, her voice quiet, "Well then, you are welcome to stay here for as long as it takes for you to make a decision."
"I appreciate that. Greatly." To show her thanks, the young woman stepped aside, bowing.
Hastily gesturing for her to get up, Yujia added on, "But you must tell me a name. I can't call you 'girl.' That would not work."
"You could give me a name. Any name," the young woman replied.
"No— that— the honor is too great for me," Yujia denied, shaking her head and hands.
"Then, refer to me as 'Xie Yufeng', like you have always done. It may be easier that way."
Yujia looked at Yufeng, observing the girl's expression for a few moments before going, "Alright." She supposed that would work. "You have to tell me a name of your own later, though," she added on, "If you think of one, that is."
"Of course." Yufeng agreed without a moment of hesitation. She then leaned to the side, looking at the oil painting Yujia had barely started on. "Are you going to finish it?"
Standing up, Yujia picked her paintbrush up again and smiled. "Yes. The paint does not dry fast, so conversations like these are alright."
After saying that, she dipped her brush in paint and began to add on layers to the shadows.
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