After the jade hairpin incident, Li Mazi and I were constantly nervous. We remained cautious for many days to see if the one that had gifted me the jade hairpin would come. However, after a long time, no one had shown up. It seemed they had vanished into thin air.
It was exactly the kind of thing the people from the Longquan Villa would do. When you are careless the most, they will come to take your life!
We decided to stop receiving cases. We stayed idle and relaxed in our shop. As I had plenty of free time, I found a recorder and recorded my touching encounters with otherworldly items. I wanted to send my story to my friend, who was a writer.
Today, while I was talking about the Red Barbarian Cannon, Li Mazi’s despicable face suddenly emerged beside me. It scared the crap out of me. I unconsciously threw the recorder at his face.
He squeaked and looked at me with his aggrieved, small eyes… When he saw that I didn’t react, he immediately placed big lunch boxes on the table. It turned out he wanted to drink some wine with me. He’d brought braised beef, stir-fried bacon with mushroom, and two large boxes of lobsters and rice.
The smell of the food made my mouth water. My stomach growled. I suddenly recognized that I had been telling my stories for hours. I shook and twisted my sore neck. Then, I picked up a pair of chopsticks and dug in.
“Little Brother Zhang, on the way here, I spotted a treasure…” Li Mazi knocked his chopstick on the table. He was trying to sound mysterious.
I didn’t buy it. “If you want to say something, do it quickly.”
Li Mazi knew me well. He chuckled then told me about the situation.
On the way here, he had walked by a vendor on the street who often sold antiques. As for the antiques on his stall… We all knew about this in our business. That was why I pouted when Li Mazi came to this part. “I’m not interested in counterfeits.”
However, Li Mazi still sounded very interested in it. “I saw a drawing. It even has a poem.”
“Wow, since when have you been interested in poetry? Is it a brand new hobby of yours? Hey, what was the painting of the beauty you saw there?”
Li Mazi shot me a glance. “Little Brother Zhang, that poem was written by that Last Ruler or something like that. I checked the writings. They are 90% authentic. This time, perhaps we can have a big harvest!”
When Li Mazi mentioned the Last Ruler, I remembered the famous historical figure, Li Yu. He was the Last Ruler of the South Tang State. Since ancient times, not many emperors had composed poems. Only Li Yu was worth mentioning and worthy of appraisal.
Here are some of his verses:
If you ask me how much I worry,
It’s just like a river flowing eastward in the spring.
How much do we know about people’s dreams?
However, there weren’t many real pieces of artwork left behind by Li Yu. He was the last ruler of his state. He was poisoned to death, and no one knew who could possess his artworks. If it were Li Yu’s real writings, how could it be in a sideway antique stall?
Li Mazi saw that I didn’t believe him. He dropped his chopsticks and pulled me up. Then, he ushered me to that stall to have a look.
I thought it was okay to go with him. It was just a walk after our meal!
“That stall isn’t far from the antique street. After twenty minutes of walking, we’ll be there.”
When we saw the stall, there weren’t many customers. Some people passed by, They asked for the price then left.
“That painting is held with a bamboo stick. It’s a simple painting, though. There’s a rockery and next to it is a beautiful woman in green clothes. She’s smiling lively. On the left is a Ci  that reads:
Light mist envelopes the dim moon and bright flowers,
A perfect night to go to her darling's side.In stocking soles, she treads the fragrant steps,
And carries in one hand her gold-threaded shoes.
They meet by the south side of the painted hall,And trembling fall into each other's arms.
"It's hard for me to creep out like a servant,
To teach my darling the recklessness of love."
I knew this was the Ci Li Yu had written for Queen Zhou’s little sister. The beauty in green had to be Young Lady Zhou.
According to unofficial history, Young Lady Zhou had a strange obsession with the color green. Her clothes and even the decorations in her palace had to be green. Otherwise, she would get mad. She had created the trend once. Moreover, from this Ci, we knew her identity without digging further.
When this Ci was written, Young Lady Zhou’s older sister was on her deathbed. Before she died, she wanted to see her little sister for the last time. Young Lady Zhou was summoned to the palace.
When she arrived at the palace, Li Yu took a liking to her. The sneaky couple had an affair right under the eyes of Queen Zhou, her sister.
Li Yu was an accomplished king. While taking care of his dying wife, he could create such poems for his little lover.
However, I didn’t know if it was just a hallucination, but I felt a strange magical power from that picture. I felt attracted to it.
The vendor saw Li Mazi and me observing the painting for quite a long time. He knew his chance had come. He came and greeted us. “Boss, you have keen eyes!” He appraised as soon as he approached us. “This painting is an authentic piece of art from the Last Ruler of the state of South Tang, Li Yu! It’s unique on the market. Look at the painting and the background…”
Before he could finish his babbling, I interrupted him and asked for the price. Even if this sort of antique was real, it would have different prices according to the circumstances.
For example, if this was Li Yu’s Ci ‘If you ask me how much that I worry; It’s just like a river flowing eastward in the spring,’ it would be a very valuable antique. However, this Ci was about his love affair, so it didn’t have much value.
The vendor’s eyes rolled. His face was happy. “It’s rare for you to like something in my humble stall, sir. I’ll give you a big discount. It should be sold for thirty thousand renminbi. I’ll give it to you for twenty thousand renminbi.”
I sneered. He thought I had money to waste! This painting was a high-quality counterfeit, and this man wanted to rip me off! If I didn’t want to see the magical power behind this picture, I would have ignored him directly.
With bright eyes, I looked him in the eye and said, “Three thousand.”
When I saw his unwilling eyes, I added, “I also work in the antique business. We know the values of things. I know this price is profitable for you already. Do you want to sell it or not?”
Then, I pulled Li Mazi and turned around to leave.
Seeing me leave, the vendor grabbed my harm. “Oh sir, we should bargain when we buy things, right? How about five thousand?”
I looked at him and said nothing.
The vendor became restless. “Four thousand. No more bargaining! When I collected it, I got it for that price. I have to make a profit. You know that, sir.”
I chuckled. “Okay! I’ll take a step back. Three thousand and five hundred.”
The vendor sighed. “All right, all right. Three thousand five hundred. Sir, you’re good at bargaining!”
He kept complaining as he packed the painting.
Soon, I got the painting. I paid then left. While holding the scroll in my hand, I thought it was strangely heavy as if it contained something else.
As soon as we got into my shop, Li Mazi’s bright eyes gazed at the painting in my hand. “Hey, if we hold an auction for this painting, how much do you think it will be worth?”
I couldn’t hold it anymore and told him that it was just a counterfeit.
Li Mazi didn’t buy it. He hadn’t given up. I showed him some traces of the forgery work, and he lost all of his hope right at that minute.
He sighed for a while then suddenly jumped to me. “If you knew it’s a counterfeit, why did you buy it?”
“Because this painting gives me a strange feeling. I suspect it’s an otherworldly item.” I turned and slowly spread the painting on the counter.
I had to say that the forgery work of this painting was a great success. Whether it was the handwriting or the material, it was almost perfect. However, a counterfeit is a counterfeit. Although the Xuan paper of this painting wasn’t bad, it was the low-grade type among the other types of Xuan paper, which had a low content of mulberry fiber.
As Li Yu was the Ruler of the state of South Tang, the Xuan paper he used was of top quality. The Xuan paper had originated from the Tang Dynasty, and it immediately became the symbol of the royal family.
Before I could study the painting thoroughly to see if it was an otherworldly item, a young man around twenty years old rushed into my antique shop with a panic-stricken face.
“Master Zhang, please save us!” As soon as he entered the shop, he got on his knees. With tears and nasal fluid all over his face, he grabbed Li Mazi’s arm and begged for help.
Li Mazi wore a puzzled face and pointed at me. “Dude… That is Zhang Jiulin.”
The young man looked embarrassed. However, he hurriedly hugged my leg and cried even louder.
“Calm down. Tell me what happened first!” I pulled him up and guided him to have a seat. I poured him a cup of tea. He finished the cup in one breath. Then, he looked at me with his red and helpless eyes before telling me the situation.
Previous Chapter Next Chapter