Chapter 172 – A Coincidence Upon a Coincidence
The night gradually grew darker. After a busy half-day, everyone was tired. Following dinner, no one was in the mood for sightseeing. They decided to rest and recharge, preparing for the two crazy days of the weekend ahead.
Chen Li was also feeling a bit weary. After dinner, both Chen Li and Wei Chen declined Wei Hua’s suggestion to go for a walk. Instead, they took a stroll around the hotel’s vicinity. After a light snack, they returned to their room.
The night passed quickly, and soon it was dawn. The hotel provided breakfast. Energized by a night of rest, the young and vibrant group was like released tigers. They finished breakfast and engaged in various leisure activities.
Although it was a group tour, the class committee had discussed and decided not to restrict everyone’s freedom too much, as long as they returned at the agreed-upon time in the evening.
After breakfast, the thirty-odd students dispersed, some carrying sketchbooks to find serene spots within the ancient town for quiet sketching, while others, who had been yearning for leisure, roamed freely, finally free from their daily routines.
Being the off-peak tourist season, the streets were not as crowded as during the peak season. The ancient charm of W Town was apparent, with its intricate network of rivers, bridges every three steps, and pavilions every ten steps. Immersed in this scenery, both body and mind found a sense of tranquility.
The hurried footsteps began to slow down, akin to a stream flowing before a house, moving forward leisurely, calm and peaceful.
The students who initially aimed to have a good time found themselves illuminated by a creative spark after merely walking two streets within the town. Ideas flowed like a spring, and they were eager to capture these inspirations, determined not to let them slip away. So, they retraced their steps to the hotel, retrieved their sketchbooks, and continued their exploration of the ancient town.
Having gone to bed early the previous night, Chen Li also retired early this night. The early spring season had brought significant humidity to the ancient town; the windows had a light mist clinging to them. Standing by the window, Chen Li traced a smiling face on the misty glass – an arched brow and a curved mouth.
Wei Chen embraced Chen Li from behind, resting his chin on Chen Li’s shoulder. Wei Chen’s voice was slightly hoarse from just waking up as he greeted, “Morning, Li Li.” It carried an alluring tone.
“Morning, Achen,” Chen Li responded, still drawing on the misty window with his fingers. The mist gathered where his fingers moved, forming droplets that eventually trickled down the glass, leaving trails behind.
This morning was serene and heartwarming.
After breakfast, Chen Li took his sketchbook and held hands with Wei Chen as they headed out. The beauty of the ancient town captured Chen Li’s gaze. As he searched for the perfect vantage point, he stopped on a bridge.
Facing east, the sun had just risen, casting a gentle glow between two buildings, creating a captivating reflection on the still water.
Setting up his sketchbook and placing a sheet of paper onto it, Chen Li took out his materials. However, in the next moment, he stared blankly at his supplies.
It wasn’t suitable. Vivid and colorful paintings wouldn’t suit this scene. Ink wash painting would be perfect – the collision of black and white, richness and subtlety – that’s how this landscape should be portrayed on paper.
In the end, Chen Li decided to create an ink wash painting.
The art easel was custom-made; it could be set up vertically or horizontally, acting as a makeshift table when laid flat.
Lately, Chen Li had been painting ink wash art in his home studio. Upon opening the easel, Wei Chen knew that the ink Chen Li used wasn’t pre-made; instead, it came from a inkstone. The ink was freshly ground.
The inkstone was of exceptional quality. According to Chen Li, it was a gift from his new old teacher. While Wei Chen didn’t understand much about inkstones, just holding it gave off a rich ink fragrance. Without a doubt, it was of significant value.
After a few days, Wei Chen had learned how to grind the ink. Now, he naturally approached to grind the ink for Chen Li. Chen Li glanced at Wei Chen, his lips slightly curving, and a faint smile appeared on his face.
With a focused gaze, Chen Li picked up the brush and began to paint. If his demeanor before painting showed a bit of timidity, once he was immersed in the act of painting, his entire demeanor changed, aligning with the consciousness within his artwork.
He was currently painting a traditional Chinese ink wash landscape. With its ethereal and profound aesthetic, Chen Li seemed like a cultivator on the verge of transcendence, enveloped in a gentle mist.
Whether sketching or oil painting, people on the road would stop to catch a glimpse, not to mention the allure of ink wash painting. Both the process of grinding the ink and the act of painting were exceptionally elegant, captivating onlookers’ eyes.
Many halted, captivated by Chen Li’s artistry. The ink spread and mingled with the rice paper, initially appearing as a mass of black, but under Chen Li’s brush, the black gradually transformed into shapes. Distant mountains embraced the rising sun, and rooftops stood in close succession. The serene water reflected shimmering ripples – a complete scene on paper.
In what felt like the blink of an eye, half an hour had passed. Chen Li had finished his artwork, now titling it on the edge of the rice paper. His calligraphy wasn’t perfect, but he could mimic well enough. Wei Chen leaned over to look. Wasn’t the font the same as his cursive brushwork font? Chen Li had only seen it once a few nights ago and remembered it.
Of course, Wei Chen wasn’t surprised; his Li Li was exceptionally intelligent. This wouldn’t stump him.
Chen Li hadn’t yet engraved his seal, but once he signed his name, the painting would be complete.
As Chen Li began cleaning his brush, applause erupted around him. Only then did he realize he was surrounded by so many people. It made him uncomfortable, but leaning into Wei Chen’s broad and reassuring hand, he finally settled down.
The applause lasted a while before subsiding. In truth, many in the crowd didn’t understand art. Yet, gazing at the painting before them, they could almost see the beautiful scene depicted, albeit hazily, invoking boundless imagination.
Gathering his courage, Chen Li looked up at the people around him and slightly nodded, acknowledging their appreciation. Though a bit timid, in others’ eyes, he appeared nothing more than bashful.
Among the onlookers were some of Chen Li’s classmates. This was the first time they had discovered his talent for ink wash painting, and to such an exceptional degree.
Indeed, comparison can be a harsh judge. Comparing themselves to others can lead to disappointment. They examined their own artworks and then glanced at Chen Li’s. The gap was undeniable; Chen Li’s artwork was exceptionally strong.
Nevertheless, they didn’t approach to disturb him, leaving with the dispersing crowd.
Chen Li had no intention of painting further; he began tidying his tools. The crowd had thinned out, but one person stood not far away, gaze fixed on Chen Li’s ink wash painting, utterly captivated.
Under the gentle touch of the spring breeze, the ink gradually dried on the paper. Wei Chen came over and started to collect the artwork. The person who had been looking at the painting saw it being gathered and hurriedly said, “Please wait.” The words were in Mandarin, but the foreign accent was quite pronounced. One wouldn’t guess they were speaking Mandarin.
Both Wei Chen and Chen Li turned their attention to this person. Wei Chen raised an eyebrow, finding it rather coincidental. This individual was Mr. Fingal Moray, the current Chairman of Max.
Even though they recognized who he was, Wei Chen didn’t intend to go over and greet him. He continued with the task of collecting the artwork.
Mr. Moray approached, his tone devout as he inquired, “May I ask if this painting is for sale? I’m willing to pay any price.” He spoke Mandarin with an accent, and though it was quite thick, it was impressive for a foreigner who had likely never been to China to even attempt to speak Mandarin.
“I’m sorry, our paintings are not for sale,” Wei Chen replied. He didn’t intend to give away or sell the painting simply because the person was the Chairman of Max.
Upon hearing this, Mr. Moray’s hopeful expression dimmed slightly, but he then turned his gaze to Chen Li and asked, “Do you happen to know Mr. Sun Ruocheng?” Sun Ruocheng was his favorite Chinese painter, and his ink wash paintings were the most captivating Mr. Moray had ever seen. The painting created by the young man just now shared some resemblance to Sun Ruocheng’s style.
Wei Chen knew Sun Ruocheng, and he was surprised that Mr. Moray mentioned him. It appeared Mr. Moray had recognized a resemblance in Chen Li’s style to Sun Ruocheng’s, possibly leading him to believe there was a connection between Chen Li and Sun Ruocheng.
While Wei Chen knew, he didn’t say anything, leaving it all to Chen Li.
Chen Li shook his head, indicating he didn’t know. He genuinely wasn’t aware of who Sun Ruocheng was. After all, neither Zhuge Yu nor his new old teacher had mentioned the name. Chen Li only knew his new old teacher was highly skilled in traditional Chinese painting.
Mr. Moray’s expression revealed utter disappointment, and he gave a gentlemanly nod to Chen Li, offering a business card, “I apologize for bothering you. This is my contact information. If you ever consider selling your artwork in the future, please let me know. It would be an honor.”
Chen Li looked at Wei Chen, who nodded in approval. Only then did Chen Li reach out to take the business card. It was as if he’d been shocked when his fingers touched it; he immediately pulled his hand back.
Seeing Chen Li accept his card, Mr. Moray departed.
Chen Li handed the business card to Wei Chen, who declined, saying, “Keep it safe yourself, Li Li.”
Chen Li then put away the business card, and together with Wei Chen, they packed up and left the bridge.
Meanwhile, after leaving the bridge, Mr. Moray, disappointed for not acquiring the painting he desired, lost interest in sightseeing. He returned to the hotel.
Inside the hotel room, there were a few magazines for guests to peruse when bored. Mr. Moray picked up one at random, and it happened to be a business magazine from several months ago. His gaze landed on the cover, and he found the featured person somewhat familiar. After a brief reflection, he recalled this person was Wei Chen, the individual who had helped the young man suspected to be Mr. Sun Ruocheng’s disciple grind ink on the bridge just now.
With a purpose in mind, Mr. Moray flipped through the magazine. Upon reaching Wei Chen’s interview, he couldn’t help but be captivated by what he said. He found himself in deep agreement. This young man possessed keen instincts for both the bigger picture and future market trends, making him a remarkably successful individual.
Finally, Mr. Moray’s focus shifted to Wei Chen’s title: Marketing Director of Changfeng Group. His fingers tapped those words a few times. It wasn’t strange for him to entertain a conspiracy theory; everything seemed too coincidental, almost as if it had been orchestrated.