For a long time, Lin Shu was too stunned to react.
Am I being reprimanded? He stood still in a daze, questions swirling in his head as he stared at the group of people who stepped into the academy one after another. One of Lin Shu's peers asked, "Lin Shu, who are these people? Why was Teacher so polite to them?"
Lin Shu had yet to let go of his grudge against them, regarding the incident that happened at the pavilion. He threw a hard punch at the door with his clenched fist. Thud! Then, he could do nothing but go to carry out his punishment of copying the 'Poetic Essays'.
Teacher Yu ushered Jing Rong and company into the living room. After he dismissed his pageboy, he stood in the middle of the hall and greeted Jing Rong with a bow.
"There is no need to be ceremonious, Teacher Yu."
However, Teacher Yu replied, "Although we are outside the palace, it's still necessary to greet Your Highness properly. There is an old saying that goes, one should never lapse in manners; even one in power should be appropriately humble."
This old and stubborn man is indeed a teacher. Jing Rong put on a faint smile.
"Have a seat, Teacher Yu."
Teacher Yu made another bow before he slowly lifted his robe and sat down on another chair. He gently stroke his grey beard as squinted and askeds, "Why did Your Highness visit our academy?"
"This Prince is travelling for an official matter. I failed to anticipate the rainy season in June and it rained our whole journey. We are passing by Bingjing and I knew that Mingshan Academy is located here. Hence, I decided to seek shelter at your academy. I believe that Teacher Yu would not mind?"
"There's a rule in our academy that forbids any outsider from entering our compound, not to mention spending a night at our academy. Rules should not be broken, but Your Highness brought up the words of the late emperor, 'Morning Tides and Setting Sun' . It will be a contempt towards the late emperor if this one fails to provide hospitality to Your Highness."
Jing Rong replied, "The late emperor bestowed the names 'Morning Tides' and 'Setting Sun' to Teacher Yu before the Mingshan Academy was officially named. Teacher Yu was free to choose either one of the names. Yet, Teacher thought that the name 'Morning Tides' was ominous as tide only lasted temporarily. Meanwhile, 'Setting Sun' was too exaggerated for you. You turned down both the suggestions and named it as 'Mingshan' instead, upsetting the late emperor. The reason this Prince brought up the words today was to ask for a favour from teacher, hoping that you could lend us your hospitality for the night."
"Everyone who visits this woods is a guest to us. I wouldn't dare to refuse Your Highness's arrival at our academy. Nonetheless, I'm but an old man who wishes for a serene and quiet life."
"There's no need for these flowery praises."
To be frank, Jing Rong thought the old man was somewhat adorable. They continued chatting on trivial pleasantries.
"These paintings are pretty well done," Ji Yunshu spoke abruptly. They followed her gaze to the painting on the wall. Ji Yunshu had been standing in front of the painting since she stepped into the room, admiring the painting with her head gently lifted.
It was 'A Hundred Birds Facing the Phoenix', a painting one meter tall by one and a half meters long. On it were ninety-nine types of different legendary birds. Some of them were cuddling in pairs, some were resting on the branches and some seated on the ground. Painted with a diversity of beautiful colours and carefully-drawn strokes. In short, the painter was impressive!
Teacher Yu responded, "This is but a replica."
Ji Yunshu nodded as she grinned, "This is, of course, an imitation. The genuine 'A Hundred Birds Facing the Phoenix' is not here." The original painting was kept in her avaricious father's collection.
She continued speaking. "However, this replica is more delicate than the original painting. Furthermore, its colour is also much more vibrant. Although it isn't the genuine drawing by Ouyang Ye, it is, in fact, better than the original."
"Young master, do you know the arts?"
"I barely know the basics," she replied humbly before she asked again, "I wonder who is the painter of this replica?"
Teacher Yu stroked his beard as he replied proudly, "This is the work of my student, Shang Zhuo. His skill in replicating paintings is top-notch. He is able to imitate the handwriting and the brushstrokes flawlessly."
Shang Zhuo? So it was that polite and knowledgeable scholar!
Ji Yunshu was further intrigued by this scholar.
Teacher Yu continued to reveal more about Shang Zhuo. According to Teacher Yu, Shang Zhuo was born with the talent of replicating paintings. He had drawn two hundred and three types of birds by imitating the original paintings. Besides that, he had also recreated approximately fifty landscape paintings. Most of the paintings were kept in Teacher Yu's collection. Although they were imitations, the paintings had a collection value, and Shang Zhuo also used the paintings to offset his tuition fee.
Tang Si approached the painting and studied it diligently. Then, she tilted her head.
"Is this a good painting? Why is this a good painting?" she asked as she reached out, intending to touch the painting. Instantly, her hand was slapped by Ji Yunshu.
She took her hand back as she glared at Ji Yunshu. Mo Ruo chuckled from the side as he watched the scene.
Later, Teacher Yu summoned Uncle Zhang, the housekeeper of the academy, and ordered, "Immediately arrange a few superior rooms for our guests and provide them with the best hospitality."
Actually, Uncle Zhang had never seen Teacher Yu agree to let anyone stay over at the academy. He was familiar with Teacher Yu's strange character and his sheer stubbornness. 'Why did Teacher Yu agree to let them stay here?' He dwelled on his thoughts, yet, did not voice out his query. Then, he ushered the group to the guest room.
The guest room was actually the study room for the scholars. Despite having minimal furniture, the room was sparkling clean. The scent of the books wafted through the air as the room was occupied with assorted books.
Having travelled a long journey, Ji Yunshu was exhausted. Hence, she took a short rest inside the room. By the time she woke, the sun had already set.
Not long after she woke up, a boy from the academy entered the room after he knocked on the door. He brought a set of dishes into the room. "Teacher, this is your meal. You shall eat as you have just woken up."
She nodded and took a seat before asking, "Where is Young Master Jing?"
"Young Master Jing is having a leisurely chat over tea with the teacher at the courtyard. He left a message, asking you to not look for him after you're awake. You may take a stroll around the academy or visit the study hall at the front yard. They are having a lecture now. You can be their guest if you're interested."
"I shall not disturb your meal further," the boy said as he exited the room.
Ji Yunshu was truly starving and her stomach had long been growling. Just when Ji Yunshu lifted her chopsticks, someone pushed the window open. The cold wind blew into the room.
Tang Si, with her elbow resting on the side of the window, extended her upper body into the room. She told Ji Yunshu playfully, "Ah Ji, you've spent hours sleeping. Let's go! We take a walk to loosen up our bone. You have no idea how big Mingshan Academy is. There are lanterns everywhere and it's more beautiful than the night at Houliao."
"You go ahead."
"Don't be so boring."
Unbothered, Ji Yunshu resumed eating her meal.
Unfortunately, Tang Si was not one who gave up easily. After not getting any reply for a long time, she jumped through the window and took a seat at the table. "Ah Ji, let's go. It's so boring to stay here alone. Why don't you take a stroll with me?" Tang Si said coquettishly.