Chapter 160 – Seeing the Light Again (3)
“What? What are you talking about?” Haejin asked.
It often happens that you end up buying fake porcelain while thinking that it is a genuine artifact, however, buying real porcelain while thinking that it is fake never happens.
It doesn’t happen since why would the seller sell a real artifact for the price of a fake artifact? Plus, appraising a real artifact as a fake is a mistake that rarely happens. There was no way this kind of mistake could have occurred when there was a deal that involved such a huge sum of money.
“SH Global bought more than a hundred antiques. But only one of them is problematic, right this one,” Yeonjin leafed through the file and stopped at a certain page.
“Hmm… it’s a pillow?” Haejin asked.
It was a white porcelain pillow with strange animals carved on the lower part, but the photo had been taken from the distance so Haejin couldn’t be sure.
“Yes. One of the investors took this photo, so it’s a little blurry. Can you appraise this?” the woman asked.
It was more than just a little blurry. Haejin couldn’t give them a confident answer even with the photo taken right in front of the artifact but asking him to appraise with that photo was just too much.
Haejin then asked, “You want me to appraise with just this? It’s not like I’m a mutant… wait, but why do you even want to have it appraised? You said it was real.”
Yeonjin gulped down some cold water, clearly agitated.
“Ha… you see, we were told it was real, but we are not sure yet,” she replied.
Haejin was now getting angry and raised his voice, “Oh, my… are you going to keep avoiding the point? Stop toying with me!”
Yeonjin answered, “I am sorry. We didn’t expect such a situation, and there are many matters involved in this case.”
“Tell me everything if you want my help and stop asking me for such a dumb favor. No one can appraise with this photo.”
But then, the food came out and the conversation stopped there. They finished eating and then went to nearby café.
Yeonjin started speaking again only after getting some cold air from the air conditioner.
“This fraud case was about to be finished. We had all the evidence to prove them guilty and all that was left was to find the money. Of course, that is very hard, but sending them to prison isn’t. However, China then asked for our help. That’s where it started.”
“The Chinese told you that one of the porcelains SH Global bought was real?” Haejin asked.
“Yes. They searched SH Global’s Chinese office and the homes of its employees, but they couldn’t find the pillow. Then, they asked for our help,” Yeonjin explained.
“Hmm… then why should I help them?”
At first, Haejin had decided to help, even if he wasn’t interested, since there were people who had lost such a huge sum of money. So, there was no reason to put time and effort into finding someone’s artifact…
“China promised you a huge reward,” Yeonjin then said.
It seemed that there was a good reason.
Haejin then replied, “Well then… I should do it. Khmm… so? Please, keep talking.”
Yeonjin was relieved to hear Haejin was going to help because of the reward. She slightly smiled and resumed talking.
“This is what they told me, ‘Although most of the porcelains SH Global bought are fake, one of them is real, and we have found out it had been sent to Korea, so help us retrieve it.’”
“What did they say about a real artifact being treated as a fake?” Haejin asked.
“The merchant who sold it didn’t know much about antiques. He was just briefly taking care of the shop for a relative when he sold it. That relative later found out about it and reported it to the police. But by the time that happened, the porcelain was already in Korea.”
“Ha… does that make any sense?” Haejin asked.
Even though that man had been a relative, antiques don’t have price tags like manufactured goods. How could he just sell it without the permission of the shop owner?
Yeonjin answered, “It was one of the few real objects the shop had. I don’t know much about it, but I heard that there are so many fakes in China that even shop owners sometimes get confused. Is that not true?”
It wasn’t. At least, merchants who traded antiques cherished real antiques as much as their lives, so they didn’t make mistakes easily.
Although they were saying it had been a mistake, there had to be an untold story about it.
“Okay. Anyway, you said it was in Korea. Do you know where exactly it is?”
Yeonjin replied, “We were told that a white porcelain pillow showed up in Insadong. But as you can see from this photo, that is the only information we have. So, we’re not even sure if that is the right artifact. If we go after it and it turns out to be a different pillow, the owner of the pillow we want will probably hide his artifact. It’s a tricky situation.”
“So, you are saying that we must send that pillow back to China, but you don’t even know if the pillow, in Insadong, is the right pillow. You also don’t know if it is real as they say. Am I getting it right?” Haejin asked.
Yeonjin sighed and nodded, “Yes, that is what’s going on now.”
Haejin then asked, “But what if it’s fake?”
Yeonjin’s eyes sparkled, “Then we must find out why. Why they told us such a lie… and the reason they want that pillow back so much for them to be willing to lie about it…”
“I wonder that, too. If it’s fake…” Haejin hadn’t seen the pillow yet, so he couldn’t be sure of anything. However, things were getting interesting.
“China also offered a million yuan as the reward for retrieving that artifact,” Yeonjin said.
A million yuan. The reward could be for either the real or the fake artifact. Plus, it was the lowest amount of money they could pay to Haejin. In fact, if it had been smaller than that, Haejin would have refused to work for them.
“A million yuan…”
“Why? Is it too small?” Yeonjin asked.
“It isn’t much for such a job. Well, I cannot say it is small, either… this is so confusing.” Haejin used to earn less than 100 thousand won as a construction worker, so he was getting greedy. However, he couldn’t help complaining as his employer was now a country, not an individual.
“We are going to try our best to find it. But you must know a lot more about Insadong, so if that pillow shows up, could you… go and check?” Yeonjin felt bad for asking such a favor, so she smiled awkwardly.
“Okay, but why did you pick me?” Haejin asked.
Yeonjin then explained, “Umm… actually, the Chinese did. I never cared about art until I got this case, so I didn’t know anything about good appraisers. Therefore, it was all the better for me when they picked you. They then told me to go to Mr. Park Haejin who had a museum in Bukcheon.”
Haejin could now see the Chinese person behind that.
“Wang Mingwan…” Haejin said to himself.
Yeonjin bitterly smiled and stood up, “Then please, do you best. You don’t have to worry, but I think my superiors are getting afraid. Although I don’t know who they are afraid of… anyway, let’s get a drink if this ends well.”
“Okay, let’s do that.”
After they parted ways, Eunhae poked him from the side while saying, “Wang Mingwan, isn’t that the rich Chinese lady you helped before?”
“Yes. If they specifically asked for me, she must be involved in this. That’s why I’m even more curious. What is going on?” Haejin replied.
“I will check what kind of rumor is going around in Insadong. If Chinese porcelain came to Korea, it must have come through the customs of Incheon, so I will check there as well,” Eunhae said.
“You think they bribed the customs? If they did, they must have paid a lot.”
Eunhae bit her lips and said, “If the customs really have accepted dirty money, there must be more than one or two artifacts that came in. And it is probably…”
Haejin could think of only one organization that had the power and wealth to regularly bring in Chinese artifacts.
“Hwajin?” Haejin then made a guess.
“Although we know nothing now, I have a bad feeling. As you said, selling a real antique while thinking it is fake is way too ridiculous… anyway, I will ask my friend in Saeyeon Gallery, too. They might be involved in this as well.”
“Okay. There’s more to this than meets the eye, so don’t rush. Let us focus on excavating the tomb in Gimhae. Don’t focus on this,” Haejin replied.
Although this case came with a huge reward, what mattered to Haejin was excavating the tomb. He had no reason to be so enthusiastic about matters related to the Chinese.
A week passed. Although rumors about that porcelain pillow in Insadong were heard from time to time, the object itself didn’t show up. Yeonjin also didn’t press Haejin to hurry.
There was a piece of good news in the meantime. Haejin’s museum got the permission to excavate the tomb.
To his surprise, the provincial government of Gyeongsangnamdo granted the museum’s request to excavate right away.
It was because one of its high officials knew Eunhae.
So now, Haejin was at the site with Byeongguk.
Although the excavation had started two days ago, researchers including Haejin couldn’t do a thing. only the bulldozer drivers were working hard.
However, this was going to be the last day of using heavy equipment. Starting from tomorrow, the researchers were supposed to work hard.
“Can we really do this? I am so worried,” Byeongguk muttered as he looked at the hydraulic shovel slowly approach the entrance of the tomb.
As it was the last day of removing huge rocks and soil with the heavy equipment, one small mistake could damage the tomb or the artifacts in it.
“It’s okay. You can trust them. You have never experienced this kind of excavation, but in this country, hydraulic shovel drivers are always the first to start excavating,” Haejin replied.
Byeongguk had been excavating as a grave robber his whole life, so he knew nothing about proper excavation.
Haejjin knew this since he had worked as a part-time worker at excavation sites while he was attending university, but the man who was controlling the hydraulic shovel knew the most about what he was doing.
“Are you sure? He might harm the artifacts!”
Haejin then explained, “I used to be worried like you, but those drivers are good. They can dig with an accuracy right down to the centimeters with that huge machine. Foreigner researchers are shocked to see us excavating with such machinery, and they are shocked once more to see it digging even better than human hands.”
Haejin watched with Byeongguk like that. When the sky was about to turn red, the machine finally stopped.
“Huh? Hey! There is something!” The driver came out and waved his hands at Haejin.
“What? What is it?”
“I don’t know, but I don’t think I can touch it. Go and take a look.”
Haejin went there, and his researchers all followed him.
“Okay, be careful… hey, watch your steps…”
Haejin took each step carefully and arrived at the spot. He knelt down and saw something blue.
“Huh? Isn’t that glass?” The driver, who was now here as well, asked.
Thrill appeared in all of the researcher’s eyes.