Chapter 157 – Losing Face
Zhuge Yu leaned over and snatched the newspaper from Zhuge Feng’s hand, then carefully read the article from the headline, one word at a time.
By the time he finished reading the last word of the report, Zhuge Yu felt a mix of anger and helplessness.
Zhuge Yu could be considered a great artist, and this time the fraudulent group exposed for swindling had included some of Zhuge Yu’s works. For him, this was a big issue, even an insult to the world of art. However, Zhuge Yu also felt powerless. Many people fell victim to this fraudulent group, revealing a blind trend-following problem within the art world.
These victims lacked even the most basic sense of appreciation. The fraudulent group easily laid out a trap, capitalizing on people’s desire to own pieces by artists currently praised in the art world. They felt it boosted their reputation, but in the face of true art, they were mere outsiders.
The fraudulent group exploited this mentality of the victims, which allowed them to succeed repeatedly. However, this was the norm in the art world, and even other circles. Zhuge Yu, even if he wanted to intervene, felt powerless.
Zhuge Yu angrily threw the newspaper onto the coffee table. His anger was hard to conceal.
Zhuge Feng stood up and patted Zhuge Yu’s shoulder. Although he couldn’t completely understand Zhuge Yu’s anger at the moment, he knew that Zhuge Yu held genuine passion for art and painting, making him sensitive to such occurrences.
But what could they do? Blind conformity and vanity were the two major demons in modern people’s minds. Who could completely expel these two demons?
Yes, the fraudulent group was caught today, but as long as people saw a chance to profit from this, thousands upon thousands of groups like this could form again. The problem was persistent and couldn’t be fully eradicated.
Zhuge Yu knew this, and that’s why he felt so angry. However, he also understood that even if the government enacted strict penalties against these individuals, as long as there was profit to be gained, they wouldn’t disappear.
“Ah…” Zhuge Yu could only sigh, as there was little else he could do.
Wei Chen also saw this news. In fact, he had received a notification on his phone when he was checking it. He glanced at it casually and then put the phone away.
Unlike Zhuge Yu’s anger, Wei Chen noticed the appearance of the leader of the apprehended group. At first glance, Wei Chen found him somewhat familiar. Soon, Wei Chen remembered where he had seen this person.
During the Spring Festival when he returned to the city, Chen Li had painted a portrait at Free Spirit. It was this leader who had come forward and tried to buy Chen Li’s painting. At that time, Wei Chen felt something was off about this person, as he sensed that the man’s true intention wasn’t the painting, but rather Chen Li himself. Now, Wei Chen understood why.
Back then, this leader had thought Chen Li was young but had remarkable painting skills. He wanted to recruit Chen Li into his group to replicate world-famous paintings. Wei Chen guessed that this leader believed Chen Li, being young and aspiring for recognition, could easily be persuaded to join them. Once a painting was produced and sold, Chen Li would be implicated, and extricating himself would become more difficult.
Of course, Wei Chen brushed this incident aside in his mind. He didn’t take this fraudulent group and its leader seriously.
Wei Chen didn’t pay much attention to this group, but the victims harbored a deep resentment towards them, including Chen Qing, who had spent millions on a fake painting. Before the news was even released, the police had already approached the Chen family. They came to inform them of the situation and to apologize, as the fraudulent group had transferred the money to a Swiss bank. The stolen money couldn’t be recovered for now.
As he listened to the police, Chen Qing felt somewhat dazed.
“What did you say? They are a fraudulent group? The painting I bought is fake?” Chen Qing couldn’t believe what he was hearing. So, he asked again, his eyes turning bloodshot. It was as if he expected that if the police were to tell him the truth at that moment, he would devour them alive.
The police cleared their throats, aware that this incident was particularly embarrassing for the Chen family. However, most of the victims this time were prominent families like the Chen family. They were enticed by the allure of owning famous paintings, gaining appreciation, and showcasing a bit of vanity, leading them to jump headfirst into the trap without realizing it.
In truth, the police held some disdain for this, but due to their professional demeanor and the Chen family’s status in the city, they didn’t show their emotions. Instead, they replied professionally, “Yes, Young Master Chen, the painting you bought is indeed a replica. According to our investigation, the genuine painting is currently hanging in Secretary Wu’s study.”
This statement from the police felt like the final straw that broke the camel’s back. Chen Qing’s entire being seemed to spiral into madness. “What did you say? The original painting is with Secretary Wu? If you’ve had suspicions for a while, why haven’t you made this known to the public? Have you all benefited from this deception while the citizens were being fooled?”
Chen Qing’s outburst caused all the present police officers to frown. They didn’t know how many sleepless nights they had endured, how much effort they had put in to obtain irrefutable evidence and make the arrests. During the operation, some of their colleagues were seriously injured, with one currently in the intensive care unit fighting for their life.
Yet, despite all their sacrifices, Chen Qing was now accusing them of colluding with the criminals!
This was an insult to their work!
Even a clay figure has some remnants of its original nature. Not to mention these police officers who had dedicated two years to capturing this fraudulent group. The Chen family was not a force to be trifled with, but under these circumstances, they couldn’t possibly stay here any longer!
“We’ve already informed those who needed to be informed. Young Master Chen, we’ll take our leave now,” the leading officer said with a wave of his hand, leaving in a burst of anger.
The police left in an instant, leaving no one behind to face the wrath of Chen Qing.
After the police left, Chen Qing slumped onto the couch, grabbed his hair in frustration, and was tormented by the reality the police had brought to him. He found it difficult to accept.
“Aqing!” Wu Zikang arrived upon hearing the news. He saw Chen Qing slouched on the couch and was immediately overcome with guilt. He approached Chen Qing, his face full of shame. “Aqing, I’ve heard about the situation.”
“Heard about it?” Chen Qing let go of his hair, a sardonic smile on his face. “Well, now I’ve become a joke, a public spectacle!”
“Aqing, I’m sorry. I didn’t judge people correctly,” Wu Zikang said, bowing his head. This incident had indeed been caused by his mistake. If he hadn’t wrongly identified the fraudster as the owner of the painting, Chen Qing wouldn’t have fallen victim, and this wouldn’t have happened today.
“Aqing, now that the situation has resulted in such consequences, I’m willing to take responsibility! After all, Secretary Wu doesn’t know whether the painting we sent was real or fake. As long as we prevent the police from releasing our information, we’ll be fine.” Wu Zikang had already devised a solution on his way here. As long as Secretary Wu remained unaware that Chen Qing and the others had been deceived, he wouldn’t know if the painting was genuine or not.
Not mentioning Secretary Wu would have been fine, but the moment he was mentioned, Chen Qing erupted in a fit of rage. Catching Wu Zikang off guard, he stood up and viciously punched him in the face.
“Wu Zikang, do you know whose hands the original painting is in? Do you have any idea how you’ve screwed me over?” Chen Qing shouted hysterically at Wu Zikang.
If it was just about being deceived, the Chen family would have been capable of suppressing the incident. Even if it got out, only Chen Qing’s reputation would be tarnished, and outsiders would just think he was foolish for falling for the scam.
But at Secretary Wu’s banquet, the Chen family had gifted a fake painting, and worse, it was a fake of Secretary Wu’s favorite painting! Damn it, they had sent out that painting in the name of the Chen family!
If this matter got out, where would the Chen family’s reputation go? It would be the Chen family that would be ridiculed, not just Chen Qing!
What was even more absurd was that they had sent a fake painting, while the genuine artwork was with the person they had presented the painting to. Wasn’t this ironic? Wasn’t this letting Secretary Wu know from the start that they were gifting a fake painting?
Wu Zikang was stunned, he was hit so suddenly by Chen Qing’s fist that he was both physically and mentally disoriented.
Chen Qing had always practiced boxing, though not to a high degree of proficiency. Still, Wu Zikang had been taken by surprise and was hit squarely by Chen Qing’s punch. He could already taste the hint of blood in his mouth, and his face was starting to numb.
But he had no time to dwell on these sensations now, because he was more concerned about what Chen Qing had just said: that the original painting was in Secretary Wu’s possession.
If Wu Zikang had harbored any tiny glimmer of hope before coming to Chen Qing, it had turned into a sense of despair now.
This incident had completely shattered the Chen family’s dignity. Even if Secretary Wu didn’t reveal this to the public, the Chen family members themselves felt as though their faces had been slapped hard several times. Their honor was gone!
And Chen Qing, who had been entrusted with this matter by Chen Shihuai, was now firmly in the line of fire. When the time came, Chen Shihuai would definitely hold him accountable.
Wu Zikang had some understanding of Chen Shihuai’s temperament. He was the kind who sought revenge for the smallest grievance, the type who couldn’t tolerate even a grain of sand in his eyes. This time, Chen Qing had turned the Chen family into a laughingstock. In Chen Shihuai’s eyes, Chen Qing had become a stain. Perhaps Chen Shihuai wouldn’t do anything harmful to Chen Qing, considering he was his grandson, but whether he would continue to value and support Chen Qing was now questionable.
Wu Zikang realized the gravity of the situation. Although his face still stung, he couldn’t afford to be preoccupied by that. Chen Qing was an important connection between the Wu and Chen families. If Chen Qing wasn’t taken seriously by the Chen family anymore, the Wu family would have to put in a great effort to establish another connection. If his family found out that he had severed this connection, he wouldn’t have an easy time either.
“Aqing, don’t worry. Your grandfather only has you as his grandson. He won’t do anything to you,” Wu Zikang tried to reassure Chen Qing, while also trying to reassure himself.