Chapter 8:

For that, it was priceless.


We bid farewell to Lao Wei at the Bruge train station. I wish I could say I was sad to never see him again, but this whole ordeal was not something particularly pleasant for us. Yet, we got so much out of it that I couldn’t complain.

For our work, Lao Wei gave us a much bigger share of the final profits, three times as much as our original deal. On top of it all, he gave us free train tickets to Amsterdam as a gesture of goodwill. With the money we had now, it was easy to just buy our own tickets, but he insisted.

“Thank you for everything,” said Lao Wei.

He extended his hand to me, which I shook. He did the same for Liya, and though she didn’t scream at him to leave this time, she didn’t take his hand either.

“It was just business,” she told him.

Lao Wei chuckled. “Fair enough.”

We got onto the train and waved at him as we left the station. For most of the trip, we just slept. After working for several days straight and then the auction on top of it all, we were sapped of all our energy. Even the excitement of what had happened and what was to come didn’t deter us from a good rest.

A few stops before ours, I woke up to someone sitting across from us. Our eyes met, and my blood ran blood. I was about to wake Liya, who was asleep on my shoulder, but he put a wrinkly finger to his mouth.

“Let her sleep,” said Ushio Furukawa, in fluent Mandarin.

“What do you want?” I said.

“From the moment I saw that painting, I knew it was fake. Don’t get me wrong, it was a wonderful replica, but there were slight details off.”

“Please,” I said. “We’re sorry. You can keep the money.”

“No. Keep it.”

“I don’t understand.”

The old man got up from his seat, just as the train came to the next station. “You allowed me to relive one of the best memories in my life. For that, it was priceless.”