Translator: Nyoi-Bo Studio Editor: Nyoi-Bo Studio
Time reversed and Li Du was shocked.
He thought that the time would only go back a few years at most. After all, that was a fake painting. It must have been only created recently.
However, the people that appeared before him were not dressed in modern clothing. The painter was a foreigner, dressed in Magua clothes and wearing a hat that was popular during the Ming and Qing dynasty epoch. A model dressed like the lady in the painting was seated before the painter.
The surroundings of the two people were totally different from those of modern days. The tables and chairs, screen, windows, and doors were all like those in the late Qing dynasty.
Li Du took a deep breath. He had made a mistake. No, it was the little bug that had made a mistake. The thing was really an antique and if someone had expended that amount of effort to fake it, it must be a worthy art piece.
However, that was still not entirely plausible. The little bug was sensitive to the power of time travel. It would not go wrong. Since it did not have any interest in the painting, how could it be an antique?
Scenes of the past continued to flash in front of him. The more Li Du saw, the more he was sure that the painting was very, very old. According to his experience with time traveling, the painting has existed for at least two hundred years!
As he observed the visions, he had a rough guess of why little bug had been uninterested in that painting.
Someone took the painting away shortly after it was created and sealed it with wax.
Even now, there were signs of wax on the painting. Li Du had thought that the middle-aged man had tampered with it as part of his scam. Now, however, it seemed like he had been mistaken. Although the man looked like a crook, he had not lied.
Li Du was speechless. He looked at the painting and then asked, “How much?”
That man looked up and said, “Are you talking about this painting?”
Li Du replied, “I’m pretty sure it’s fake, but it has been done pretty well. If the price is right, I can convince my foreigner friends to buy it.”
That man rubbed his goatee and said, “One hundred thousand!”
Li Du immediately stuffed the painting back into his hands and said, “You can walk down further and then take a turn. You’ll see a bank there. Based on my observation, it exchanges millions on a daily basis. You go commit robbery there.”
The people who were watching laughed louder.
Li Du shook his head and wanted to leave. Although the painting was old, it might not be very valuable. He saw painter’s signature and was pretty sure he had never heard of this artist.
Seeing that he was about to leave, the man grew anxious and pulled him back. “Hey, hey, hey, wait up, friend. We are doing business after all. We just want to settle the right price, don’t we? If you’re interested, then make your offer.”
Li Du glanced at him and said, “One thousand dollars.”
The middle-aged man was on the verge of hitting him. He shouted, “This is an antique, and you’re offering one thousand dollars?”
Li Du said, “How about five hundred RMB and a pennant?”
The middle-aged man said, “Don’t be ridiculous, this is not a national treasure. The government will have no interest.”
Li Du said, “Not only it is not a national treasure, it’s not even valuable. Just give me a reasonable price.”
The middle-aged man hesitated before saying, “At least one hundred thousand dollars.”
“Ten thousand dollars.”
“D*mn, there’s a bright future for youngsters like you. You’re savvier than me,” the man could not help but swear. “Fifty thousand dollars and not one cent less.”
Li Du shook his head. “Then find someone else to buy it. This is not an antique. It’s just a nice painting. Twenty thousand dollars then. Any more, I won’t take it.”
“Let’s both move an inch, forty thousand dollars!”
“Twenty-five thousand dollars. Talk some more and I’m gone. This is ridiculous, the foreigners will mock us,” Li Du said, dissatisfied.
The middle-aged man shuffled his feet and then said, “Alright, twenty-five thousand. D*mn, I’ve taken a loss. Oh well, anyway, I just happened to stumble upon it. Twenty-five thousand is also a good deal, but you’ve got a better one.”
They were right near the bank. Li Du brought the man to the front door and said, “Wait for me, I’m going to withdraw money.”
The middle-aged man replied, “Alright, you can withdraw more while you’re at it. Prepare a total of two hundred and fifty thousand dollars.”
Surprised, Li Du asked, “What do you mean?”
The middle-aged man started laughing and said, “There are nine more paintings like this in my house. A total of ten. Do you want to buy them all? I can give you a discount. Ten for two hundred and forty thousand dollars.”
“So many?” Li Du was surprised.
The middle-aged man said, “They are all sealed up in a box. I haven’t even unwrapped some of them. It’s true, brother, they are all antiques, definitely antiques.”
Li Du thought for a moment and went in to withdraw two hundred and fifty thousand dollars. He said, “Let’s go to your house. I must check out the goods myself. What if you’re lying?”
The middle-aged man patted his chest and said, “Why would I, Liu Shan Yang, bluff anyone? We rely on being men of our words to survive in the outside world. I’m definitely particular about honesty!”
Li Du felt that he was unreliable. He had withdrawn the money, however, and drove to the man’s house. Similarly to his own, the house was located in a county suburb. However, Li Du’s house was in the Northern suburbs while this man’s house was in the Southern suburbs. That was why they did not know each other before.
After entering the shabby house, Li Du understood why he had felt that the man was strange. He was a fortune-teller. There were mysterious-looking books and characteristic robes in the house. There were also flags of some sort in the backyard.
One of the largest flags was triangular. The words printed on its front said, ‘Physiognomy, fortune telling, name creation, name change, prediction’. On the back, it said, ‘Praying for a job, avoidance of misfortune, health, marriage, fortune, career’.
Separately, Li Du saw a banner. It said, ‘Nation Proper Eight Characters Fortune Telling Service Centre’.
Seeing that Li Du was looking at the advertisements, the middle-aged man grinned and said, “Should I gift you a reading? Although my name is Liu Shan Yang, there are many who call me Liu See Through.”
Li Du lost his smile and said, “No, no, no. I am afraid I cannot afford your golden words. Hurry up and bring out the paintings.”
The man opened a box with a cowhide cover. There were some rolled-up paintings inside. Some of them had been unwrapped and some were still sealed with wax.
Li Du let the little bug out to check the authenticity of those paintings. The little bug flew towards the offering table that was placed right in the middle of the house. It stopped, hovering around one of the deity figurines on the offering table.
Without a doubt, that was another antique.
Li Du feigned calm and pretended to ask casually, “The deity figurine looks good. Are you selling it?”
The middle-aged man glanced and him and said, “Brother, I have underestimated you. You’re an expert. I need to re-evaluate the pricing of these paintings.”
Li Du opened his bag and revealed the stacks of fresh hundred-dollar bills. “Suit yourself. If you’re not selling, so be it. Do you really think these paintings are some limited edition famous pieces of art?”
Seeing that much cash, Liu Shan Yang instantly gulped. He nodded his head quickly and said, “Alright, alright, alright. A total of two hundred and forty thousand dollars. However, that rosewood figurine has been passed down in my family for countless generations, and I would only sell it to save my life!”
Hearing his words, Li Du confirmed that the man also knew the value of that figurine. Any hope of buying it cheaply, therefore, was gone.
However, Li Du was still rather pleased that he managed to lay his hands on those old oil paintings. They were definitely worth more than two hundred and forty thousand. Especially since he could bring those paintings out of China and find a suitable buyer in America. The price would definitely be higher then.