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Haejin returned to the museum. Instead of going to his new appraising room, he went to Eunhae’s office first.
“She is waiting at the appraising room,” Eunhae then explained. Haejin asked, “And she is prime minister’s wife?”
“Please explain. Why is she here?” Haejin wanted to hear Eunhae’s explanation first because they couldn’t exchange opinions in front of An Haewon, and he needed to decide whether or not to appraise for her. Eunhae sat down, took a sip of her tea, and started to talk, “Impressively, she is very much interested in art.”
“Why is that impressive?”
“Because I’ve never seen her before,” Eunhae replied.
Eunhae knew many politicians and businessmen. If someone she hadn’t met before was interested in art, it was surprising.
“I asked for the reason, and it turned out that she hasn’t been able to buy even a cheap painting from the gallery because she couldn’t have her husband accused of corruption. She just goes to museums and galleries from time to time to look at paintings,” Eunhae explained.
Although she said cheap painting, she didn’t mean paintings worth a few ten thousand won. She was talking about paintings that were relatively cheaper than paintings in other galleries.
Eunhae then continued, “And a painting that even she couldn’t refuse came to her.”
Before Haejin heard the story, he thought that appraising for her was a bit bothersome, but now he was interested.
“A masterpiece showed up in front of someone who couldn’t even buy cheap paintings?” Haejin asked to be sure.
“How? No, through what route?”
Eunhae then said, “It’s funny. She went to the alumni meeting that her friend suggested. In there, there was a very realistic fake that she should take a look. If it had been real, she would have never bought it. Otherwise, her husband would be accused.”
“I see. That is why she hasn’t bought even a cheap painting. But what is that painting she bought?” Haejin asked. Eunhae exhaled and said, “Renoir.”
Haejin doubted his ears, “Renoir? Pierre-Auguste Renoir?”
Haejin’s jaw dropped. There had been a reason why Eunhae called him even if the situation was urgent.
“So… one of Renoir’s painting might be in this building?” Haejin asked.
“Yes. She came because she thinks it might be real,” Eunhae replied.
“And she wants it to be a fake?”
She had no choice but to hope for the painting to be fake. That was ironic. Anyway, Haejin wanted to meet that painting first.
“Okay. Let’s take a look at it and then decide.”
Haejin stood up while Eunhae followed him.
The new appraisal room had scientific equipment needed for appraising. Anyone would be impressed and comment, ‘Wow, this place truly is perfect for appraising.’
Of course, they were not cutting-edge equipment. As Haejin almost never needed them, they were there just to be shown to the clients.
In that perspective, they had a great effect. An Haewon, in fact, was feeling calm as she sat alone in the room, unlike when she had been wandering around in Insadong’s alleys.
Clean white interior, sample dishes on the side, X-ray equipment and infrared light devices made her not regret coming here.
When Haejin went in and saw that her eyes were full of trust, he knew she was ready to accept anything he said.
“Nice to meet you, I am Park Haejin.”
“I’ve heard so much about you. I am An Haewon. Honestly, I’ve met a few appraisers to have this painting appraised, but they all had slightly different opinions. So, I couldn’t trust them… but then I heard you were the best appraiser in this country. Is that right?”
Haejin calmly nodded, “Yes.”
He didn’t want to bother by being humble. His fee was the most expensive in the world, after all.
Haewon smiled softly, “Then please, take a look.”
Her painting was already on the table, so Haejin went closer to examine it. It turned out to be the painting of a ballerina.
“You bought it while thinking it was fake?” Haejin asked as he looked at the painting. Haewon then answered with a shaky voice, “Yes. I was told it was fake and I didn’t pay much for it. But then…”
Haewon continued, “A few days ago, a friend came to my home. She knows a lot about art, and she said it was extraordinary. It had a deep vibe. It couldn’t be fake. I thought so, too. I had never felt such liveliness from a forgery. So, I went to appraisal agencies in Insadong.”
“How many agencies did you visit?” Haejin asked.
“Three. But they all told me different things, so I didn’t know which opinion to trust. Then my close friend told me about you, that you were the best.”
“It can’t be really Renoir’s, can it?” Haewon asked in a worried tone.
“I must examine it first.”
Actually, Haejin had a strong feeling that said the painting was real.
The ballerina with the bright maroon hair and snow-white ballet dress was doing a turn. Unlike Degas’ paintings that had a dramatic beauty and strong image, this painting was just bright and warm.
The transparent laces of the ballet dress had Renoir’s unique coloring technique. It was like Renoir himself was saying it was his.
“You know it is an unusual painting for Renoir, right?”
Haewon carefully replied, “I like most of the Impressionists, but I like Renoir the most. I know which of his painting is at which gallery. Of course, I know that this painting is very rare.”
When it comes to ballerina’s painting, most people think of Degas, not Renoir. He scarcely depicted ballerinas.
So, this Renoir’s painting of a ballerina was very rare. Making a forgery of such a painting was quite dangerous for a forger.
“Hmm. What happens if this is real?” Haejin asked.
“What? Then I should return it, of course. I bought this at 800 thousand won.”
She bought this at 800 thousand won… Haejin couldn’t help smiling.
They were truly ingenious. They had sold a real painting as a fake to drag the prime minister down. Haejin didn’t even have to use magic. This painting was certainly real.
However, as there couldn’t be many with such gut and skills, he used magic to look into the past, thinking he might see familiar faces.
And he was right.
“Unfortunately, this is Renoir’s painting. You will have to give it back,” Haejin gave his appraisal.
“Oh…” Haewon couldn’t believe it, and she took a step back without realizing it. Haejin then said, “And if you are so worried, you’d better report it to the police. That friend of yours can be preparing to use this against you right now.”
“No way… we have been friends for almost 40 years. We didn’t see each other for about a decade, but… but she is so kind and always following the law. She couldn’t have tried to do this to me. I can’t believe it.”
“She could have known about this, of course, but she might also not have known. What we can be sure of now is that this painting is Renoir’s,” Haejin replied.
In the past Haejin had seen through magic, Haewon’s friend had been fooled and really believed it was real.
But shockingly, she hadn’t been enchanted like SH Global’s investors. She just didn’t know much about art.
Funnily, they had bought it from Anton Baret Auction in America where Haejin had gone with Eunhae before.
So, they had used that painting to make the prime minister suffer, but unfortunately, Haejin hadn’t seen anything that let him know the reason behind.
“Oh… what should I do…” Haewon panicked and didn’t know what to do, but Haejin and Eunhae couldn’t do anything for her.
They just gave her the official document in Haejin’s name that proved the painting was real so that she would be able to show it to the police.
After she left, Eunhae asked Haejin, “What happened? You can read the memories of the items. Do you know who’s behind this?”
Haejin then explained, “As you said, she bought a real painting while thinking it was fake, so I thought it had to be connected to SH Global. But I couldn’t see anything related to them. It looks like she just has grudges against the prime minister…”
“Then they just wanted to screw him over?” Eunhae asked. Haejin confirmed, “Yes, but what is she doing right now that she is trying so hard? Anyway, I don’t think the organization is behind this.”
“Hu… that’s good. But how much is that painting worth?”
“They bought it at about 5 billion won. Spending that much money to screw someone over? They must have a huge plan,” Haejin commented.
“Five million isn’t a big price to get rid of the prime minister. Okay. Are you going to leave again now?”
“Probably,” Haejin replied.
“But I was going to have dinner with you,” Eunhae complained.
Haejin felt somewhat guilty to see her disappointed. However, he then heard the voice of a woman who was probably talking to a doctor in one of Gangnam’s cosmetic surgery hospitals.
He then realized someone had opened the door and gone into the young man’s hospital room.
[How could the chosen one be ruined like this…]
It was a blunt British accent. Haejin said goodbye to Eunhae and quickly left the museum.
[Completely ruined. You can’t use your powers anymore…]
That was the young man’s voice.
[Tell me. Who did this to you?]
This time, it was in Korean with an awkward foreign accent. Haejin started his car and stepped on the accelerator. He couldn’t miss this opportunity.
[He was over 30… with a wide forehead and a low nose… oh! He had a mole on his lip!]
[Who is he?]
[I don’t know, I don’t know! Get me out of here first. You’re here to help me, right? Then take me out of there!]
[First, explain how he took your power.]
Strangely, the young man calmly explained what had happened. It had to be through either drug or magic.
About five minutes later, his explanation finished. The mysterious man was done with him now. He ignored the young man’s begging and left.
[Save me! Please!]
[Huh? Sir! This patient is acting strange!]
Haejin could feel him wriggling and screaming, so he stopped listening.
Thankfully, the hospital wasn’t far from his museum, so when he arrived, only five minutes had passed.
“He must be a foreigner…”
Haejin didn’t think it was too late because he thought he could recognize him. Their unique gloomy aura had to be easy to feel.
Haejin went in and walked through the crowd. Then, he saw a priest with a Bible in his hands.
The priest was tall and handsome, he could have been a model instead. But now, it didn’t matter. Haejin could feel that he was the man who had been with the young man.
He walked casually toward his direction. The moment he got close to him, he was surprised to feel an intense heat like that of the desert. Haejin then looked at him.
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