The Price (part 1)
Within the Proulx Gallery. Elegant music wafted over everyone present, as all of the visitors silently inspected one sculpture after another.
The gallery was divided into the main gallery, the expert’s gallery, and the master’s gallery.
The main gallery took up an enormous amount of space, and also contained the most works of art. Towards the northeast corner of the gallery, there were three works of art, all of which emanated a very unique aura. Anyone who had spent time studying the art of sculpting would immediately sense the aura.
But there were more than ten thousand works of art in the gallery, and these three sculptures were thus like needles hidden within an ocean. It was quite difficult for anyone to pay them any mind.
“Most of these sculptures feel hollow. They have a shape but no soul.”
The 180-year old Count Juneau [Zhunuo] was slowly making his way through the main hall, his gaze flickering past one work of art after another. Count Juneau didn’t have any other hobbies; the only thing he liked was sculptures. Every day, he would spent his morning strolling through the Proulx Gallery.
But within the main gallery, there were very few sculptures capable of attracting Count Juneau’s interest.
“Milord Count, have any sculptures struck your fancy?” A beautiful attendant by his side said to him. Because Count Juneau came here every morning, all of the attendants working at the Proulx Gallery had become quite familiar with him.
Count Juneau shook his head and laughed. “Haven’t found any yet.”
“Milord Count, the quality of the sculptures here is much inferior than that of the sculptures in the hall of experts and the hall of the masters. Why do you spend every morning here?” The female attendant said curiously.
Count Juneau intentionally let out a mysterious laugh. “You don’t understand. There are countless sculptures within this main hall. Perhaps hidden within there are some good works. The feeling of panning for gold by sifting through mud is quite marvelous.”
“Oh?” The attendant looked at Count Juneau questioningly.
Count Juneau didn’t explain any further. He continued to appraise one sculpture after another without stopping, but when he reached those three works of art sculpted by Linley, his eyes lit up. Having appraised sculptures for over a century, he could immediately discern that these three sculptures were special.
“Cool, natural, proud and aloof…”
Count Juneau couldn’t help but praise.
The word was ‘essence’. For a work of art to be termed a ‘good’ work of art, it had to have that certain special essence to it. At a single glance, Count Juneau could tell that these three works of art emanated a cool, proud, and aloof aura. It was this unique aura which had stopped Count Juneau in his tracks.
“Come over here and help me place a bid. For these three sculptures, I am willing to bid a hundred gold coins each.” Count Juneau said to the female attendant.
The female attendant beamed and immediately pulled out a records book. After recording down the registration number of each sculpture, she took out three pieces of paper and placed them next to the sculptures, with each piece of paper bearing the words ‘hundred gold coins’ on them.
While the female attendant was doing her administrative work, Count Juneau continued to savor these three sculptures.
“Wait a second!” Juneau’s shadowy eyes suddenly lit up again as he stared fixedly at the sculpture of the ‘Velocidragon’. “How is it possible that the scaly armor on the back of the Velocidragon shares the same outline and line with the leg, as though it were all done as part of one series? Logically speaking, the scaly carapace should have been carved by a butterfly chisel, while the leg should have been carved using the straight chisel. No matter how careful one is, a sculptor can’t possibly make the lines flow together 100% perfectly!”
Count Juneau had studied sculpture for over a century.
Originally, he wasn’t a particularly wealthy noble, but based on his keen sight, he had collected many sculptures at a low price which he would later sell at a much higher price. This was how Count Juneau had become one of the wealthy nobles of Fenlai City.
“Can it be that it was carved using a single tool? Impossible, aside from the butterfly chisel, what tool could possibly have been used to carve out such perfect, exquisite details in each protruding scale?” Count Juneau frowned, concentrating fiercely. He had never seen something so queer.
“Milord Count?” Seeing him in a daze, the female attendant couldn’t help but call out to him softly.
Count Juneau’s eyes flickered. He said to himself, “I didn’t expect that I would encounter such a unique work of art in the main hall of the Proulx Gallery. I can’t let others notice it. If I bid a hundred gold coins, some people will take special notice of it. It might cause the price to dramatically increase.”
Count Juneau immediately made his decision.
He would leave these sculptures alone for a few days, and come back later to bid on it during the final two days.
“Help assist me in cancelling my offer.” Count Juneau directly said to the woman next to him.
“Cancel?” The female attendant was startled. Based on their normal rules, once a bid was made, it could not be retracted. But Count Juneau was a very old, longstanding customer of the Proulx Gallery, and so the female attendant very matter-of-factly removed the three bidding stickers.
“Might I ask milord Count why you have retracted your bid?” The female attendant asked.
Count Juneau smiled mysteriously. “No need for you to ask. Oh, right, I want to ask you, how many days have these three sculptures been on display?”
The female attendant flipped through her records, then smiled. “These three sculptures will be on display until June 30th. They were just brought here to the main hall yesterday.”
Count Juneau nodded fractionally.
“Alright, I’ll wander around a bit. You can go ahead and do what you need to do.” Count Juneau smiled.
But in his heart, Count Juneau secretly rejoiced. In his appraisal, the true valuation of these three sculptures should be in the range of three thousand gold pieces. An ordinary sculpture by an expert was worth around a thousand gold pieces, and these three sculptures were all carved in a very unique manner. Just based on that alone, the actual valuation would be doubled.
Count Juneau continued to visit the gallery every day. Indeed, just as he had expected, because the Proulx Gallery had so many sculptures, nobody else had managed to discover these three sculptures. Even if someone had, they only felt that the sculptures looked nice, and couldn’t see the true value of these sculptures.
Count Juneau once more arrived at the Proulx Gallery. Casually strolling about the main hall, he browsed through the selections. But once he reached the three sculptures, his face tightened. Next to each of the sculptures, there was a bidding slip.
Three stone sculptures, each one with a bid for three hundred gold coins.
Seeing this bid, Count Juneau inwardly seethed. “Fool! Even if you saw the true value of the sculptures, why would you bid such a high price right off the bat? This will just draw more attention to it.” Count Juneau’s heart was filled with rage, but there was nothing he could do. He didn’t have the authority to retract someone else’s bid.
Everything unfolded just as he predicted and feared.
June 12th. Count Juneau once again reached the three sculptures. By now, the price had changed once again.
“Five hundred gold coins?” Count Juneau’s eyes narrowed to slits. “Seems like there’s quite a few people who know quality when they see it.”