AWR | Chapter 8 – A Branch in the Coffin, Mistiltein (5)
March 18, 2023 2 Comments
The largest museum on the Central Continent – Lemuse.
It was a place that embodied the past, where one could experience ancient weapons and culture at a glance, starting with artworks such as paintings and sculptures.
Quinie visited the museum, both for her pleasure and study.
By seeing the high quality artworks here in-person, she could train and cultivate her ability to discern the value of items.
But today, though, she was a bit distracted by the person next to her, and she smiled vaguely, “I mean, you didn't have to come.”
“No, no, no, it's fun, it's fun, it's really, really fun.”
The person next to her, Anne, answered like an answering machine.
By the time she realized she was adding every single word, her answers were losing their soul.
“I don't understand why you're following me when you don't even care about this.”
“My father bought a painting a while ago, but it turned out to be a fake, So I guess he got ripped off by someone.
After that, he suddenly came to me and said, 'Daughter, this shouldn't happen to you,' and told me to study art, because it's been happening a lot lately.”
“He seems like a nice person.”
“…Well, I also needed something like that, and since it's a request from my dad, I had no reason not to listen, and I wanted to learn a little bit about it, right?” Anne said, twisting her hair.
Quinie smiled at the sight.
……But one can't develop a discerning eye for art unless they truly love it,….
because discernment in art is the sense of feeling 'beautiful'.
Quinie debated whether or not to say that, but eventually swallowed her words in silence.
She didn't want to close her mind to the possibility of discovering something new.
As she walked, Quinie stopped in front of a painting.
It was the portrait of a woman praying, but not in a church or cathedral.
She was praying in the midst of a golden expanse of wheat; she was smiling, and her face was not solemn or serious, but bright and radiant – all of these elements were unlike each other and yet together, disparate and magnificent at the same time.
Quinier was taken aback, afraid she'd inadvertently said it out loud.
“Qui, Quinier, look, over there, look over there.”
“Yes, I'm looking.
You'll recognize it when you're this good.”
“No, no, not the painting.
At Anne's barely audible whisper, Quinie's brow furrowed slightly, and she looked to the side and sure enough, Quinie was even more startled than before.
That’s because Frondier was beside her.
Frondier was not at Constell but was in a museum, and that too in front of an artwork.
There was nothing reasonable about it, and as such, Quinie just froze in place.
Just like Quinie a while ago, it seemed Frondier hadn’t noticed the presence of Quinie next to him either; his eyes were only on the painting.
There was no emotion on Frondier's face.
It was the same old languid face.
If you look at it differently, it almost looks like he was observing the painting.
She wasn't sure if Frondier had an eye for art, but it was certainly not normal for him to linger so long on a painting.
That piqued Quinie's interest.
Yes, this was the same Frondier who knew the Mistiltein was a fake.
Who knows what kind of expertise he had in the field of art.
What are your impressions of this painting? Quinie wondered inwardly.
“……Magnificent,” Fondier's mouth opened slightly.
The collective sigh that followed seemed to confirm his admiration for the painting.
“Alas it's a fake.”
It only lasted a brief comment.
Without saying anything more, Frondier walked away with the same causal steps.
Quinier watched Frondier walk past her and continued to look at him before calling out to him with long strides, “Hey, wait! Wait! Hey! Wait! Stop! Hey!”
She stomped over to Frondier.
Both formal and informal speech came out naturally.
“Uh, Senior Quinier.
I see you here.”
Frondier greeted her.
Quinie was momentarily startled by his usual demeanor.
For now, she decided to accept the greeting.
“Ah, yes, yes.
Frondier, what brings you here? You didn't seem like the kind of person who would come to a place like this.”
“Well, I came to see the artifacts rather than the artworks, and I was on my way there.”
“Yeah, weapons, armor, stuff like that.”
Frondier's words convinced Quinier – Frondier, who had recognized the Mistiltein as a fake, was an otaku with an interest in old things!
But there were more important matters at hand.
“Fr, Fondier, what did you mean by what you just said?”
“Huh? What did I say?”
“You saw the painting and called it a 'fake'! Clearly! I heard you!”
Quinie scowled and pointed to the painting, taking a second look as she did so.
The painting was exemplary even on a second viewing.
It would not be surprising if it was a hall of fame, let alone a fake.
It was a fake.”
He was being so casual again.
What was it with this kid and his habit of calling everything a fake, even Mistiltein?
“Do you know where you are? It's the Lemuse Museum! The best museum in the Central Continent! It's not normal to have fakes in a place like this!”
Upon hearing that, Frondier pursed his lips as if he seemed to be thinking about something, “So, you mean ……, that Senior Quinie should have lodged a formal complaint for letting a fake into the museum, or something like that…….”
“That's not it!”
What is he saying? Doesn't he have even a speck of doubt that he might be wrong?
“If you recklessly spread rumors that there are fakes in the Lemus Museum, it won't just end there!”
“Whether this is the Lemuse Museum or the Louvre, it doesn’t matter! A fake is a fake,” Frondier spoke in a tone that suggested he was stating the obvious.
While the words themselves felt natural, what was Louvre? Still, Quinie couldn't help but question it, “That's a fake?”
It is a fake.”
“Really? You don't regret saying that? Really?”
One hundred percent fake.”
Once again, Quinie looked at the painting.
………Indeed, it was an excellent piece of art, no matter how one looked at it.
Though the Mistiltein incident had raised her standards a bit for Fondiers, she still trusted her own eyes more.
“……Do you want to bet then?”
A bet on whether that painting is real or fake.
If you win, I'll send the equivalent of the price shown on the painting to House Roach from the Viet Corporation.
If I win, it's the other way around.
How about it?”
“How are you going to verify if it's real or fake?”
“I'll buy it, that painting.”
Anne, who was standing next to her, was startled and exclaimed, “Hee hee!”
Quinie looked at Frondier with a confident expression.
In fact, she had been thinking about buying something since she came to the Lemuse Museum and that painting was enough to satisfy her eyes.
And that’s why it was upsetting to hear someone say it was a fake.
“If you cancel now, I will think as if nothing happened.”
“Okay,” Frondier said.
Quinie blinked, her mouth open in disbelief.
But then Frondier said something even more ridiculous, “But instead of giving it to House Roach, could you send it to me personally, in cash or something?”
“You're quite something, aren't you?”
━━━━━━ ⊙ ━━━━━━
Currently leading the stock market was the Viet Corporation with the best stock price.
But that was a recent assessment, and before being taken over by Quinie, the former Viet Corporation had lost its shine from its glorious heyday.
At the time, everyone thought it was beyond recovery and they were right.
The way things were going, it was impossible to bring it back to its glory days.
Therefore, Quinie decided to completely dismantle it and start anew.
She cut off all unprofitable business relationships, fired people, and severed all connections with longtime noble acquaintances.
Once she got rid of all the frothy bubbles that had clung to the corporation, the deficit was solved.
However there was a new problem i.e., her enemies increased.
The Viets had made many deals with other merchant houses and families, many of whom would go down with them if the Viets went down.
But Quinie didn't hesitate to cut them off.
She didn't take into account things like time and loyalty, as she had been trading with them for a long time.
Naturally, her enemies were bound to increase.
Hence she got the nickname ‘Quinie the Little Devil.’
From then on, the Viets grew like wildfire, and with the growth of the Viet Corporation, came the downfall of every family that Quinie cut down.
As a result, the world's opinion of Quinie, whom they had called reckless, changed overnight.
“Cold hearted, but creepily discerning.
An eye for people and an assessment of their abilities that rivals foresight.
The families that Quinie didn’t cut off, or the ones she reached out to first, grew.
If Quinie cut them off, the family would collapse.
After this situation repeated itself, the houses that sought to bring Quinie down found themselves with fire under their feet.
If Quinie had cut them off, it was proof that they were worthless.
Naturally, their popularity declined, and they were labeled as incompetent.
Quinie had a ghost-like vision for discerning people, and her ability was comparable to precognition, but of course it wasn’t.
As such, she was unable to read all of the sudden events that occurred and this obvious fact annoyed Quinie today.
“So, everything got mixed up?”
“It was already this way by the time it arrived.”
“So, it got mixed up?”
The butler stiffened at Quinie's accusation.
“Let's go, I need to see the mess myself.”
With that, Quinie led the butler to the front of the mansion.
In front of the mansion, all the luggage was already unpacked and the servants were busy sorting things through it.
The front of the mansion was a mess.
Quinie could see items that had no record of being purchased at the store from the merchants.
“There's been an epidemic of counterfeiters lately, and they've been targeting places like ours that buy goods in bulk.
They bring in similar vehicles, force the drivers out, and swap out similar things in the luggage of both vehicles.
They've also been preparing knockoffs of expensive items that are completely indistinguishable.”
“If they had the knockoffs ready to go, that means they knew what we were buying at the store.”
“Yes, it seems that someone stole records from a gallery or museum.”
Haah, Quinie sighed.
Only now did she remember what Anne had said about her father falling victim to counterfeit goods.
It was too much to expect her to have predicted this situation from just one word.
Still, things had been better for the Viets because they'd caught the crooks in the act.
The problem was, the crooks were in the middle of switching, so the luggage was mixed up in both vehicles.
They brought both vehicles in and were sorting through them here.
“……but what are they doing over there?”
While there were employees and servants diligently sorting things, on the other side, there was a group of people gathered in a circle.
“Oh, we've hired some appraisers, because we've found a significant number of counterfeits that are similar to what we've purchased.”
Quinie walked over to where they were gathered, curious.
If the knockoffs were similar, how similar could they be?
“Oh, wait, no.
In front of Quinie's eyes were two paintings she had purchased at Lemus; it was the painting of a woman praying.
The two paintings looked exactly the same, except for the expression on the woman's face.
One was smiling, while the other was expressionless.
Quinie had clearly bought the painting with the smiling woman.
“Are you done with the appraisal?”
I'm sorry, it was very difficult, but the appraisal is over.
The painting was so good that I got lost in it too, hahaha,” the appraiser smiled wryly as he spoke.
The appraisal was finished.
Quinie swallowed hard.
Which one was the real painting?
Quinie looked at both the paintings again.
To her eyes, the one with the smiling woman seemed more real.
The act of praying and the woman's smile.
The incongruity was beautiful.
“So, which one is real? Which one has more artistic value?”
“Well, the answer to those questions is different.”
The appraiser pointed to the painting of the smiling woman.
“The one with the higher artistic value is this one.
We all admired it as soon as we saw it.
It's not just the expression on the woman's face, it's the way the colors are used, as well as the attention to detail in the background, all accurately depicted the beauty of an unfamiliar combination.
Most importantly, while borrowing the color scheme used in the original, it was refined to a sophisticated level.
Most people wouldn't be able to distinguish it from the original.”
The appraiser then pointed to another painting, this time of the expressionless woman.
“This one is the original.
It is also a good quality painting.
But the style is a little monotonous, and most importantly, the woman's expression is disappointing.
At first, we thought this one was a fake.”
“But how do you know it's the original……?”
“Luckily, there was someone among us who knew this artwork.”
This time, another appraiser came forward.
“It’s called ‘The Woman's Prayer’, by Alain Bouchon.
Both the artist and the work are very minor, and the artist has been dead for quite some time.
Very few people know about it, probably because it's been passed off as a fake by crooks trying to pass it off as an original.
It was probably being sold cheaply in some gallery.”
A fake with more artistic value than the real thing.
Is that why Frondier called it a “great fake”?
“So is there any way for the average person to recognize this as the real thing?”
“Hard to say.
Even museums have put fakes on display thinking they're genuine.
You'd have to be really lucky to have seen the real thing when it didn't have this fake, or you'd have to have studied almost every painting on the continent.”
At those words, Quinie blinked a few times.
She seemed to be thinking about something, then spoke up.
“I guess he just got lucky, huh?”
“I mean, I guess he must have gotten lucky? There is no other way to explain it.”
She was trying hard to sell a story that the appraisers wouldn't understand.
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