The carriage slowly came to a stop in front of the Dolphin Antique Store.
Garen jumped out of the carriage and paid for the ride. He stepped in front of the antique store only to notice that the door was completely closed and that it was surprisingly quiet inside.
He raised his head to look at the store name and knocked on the door.
"Open the door Old man!"
"Coming! I'm coming!"
A seam appeared in the doorway as it cracked open. Old Man Gregor grabbed Garen as he forcefully dragged him in and immediately shut the door.
The store was oddly dark. Only a single oil lamp was lit on the table in front of the bookshelves. Under the dim yellow light, there was a brown and red colored miniature hourglass. The fine black sand slowly slid down through the slim aperture and its sound echoed.
Garen adjusted to the darkness within the room and glanced at the hourglass on the table.
"What’s this? Your new toy?"
The old man didn’t respond. He slowly strolled to the table and sat down. The dim light cast on his face highlighted his fatigued and aged expression.
"A friend gave me this black hourglass. It is used for tracking time and can measure a long period of time with every reset." He shook the hourglass with his hand. "I have already had this for two weeks and only one-fifth of the sand slid down. Don’t you think it is slow?"
"Indeed." Garen raised his eyebrows as he gazed at the old man’s aged appearance. "Are you alright, old man? You haven’t looked so well recently."
Garen took a chair and sat beside the table as he adjusted the light for the oil lamp. The room brightened up. "Maybe I am sick." Old Man Gregor smiled, and his perverse nature seemed to have faded. "Speak your mind, why did you make a trip down here? You usually don’t visit me when you are free."
"I am here to take care of the elderly. I am afraid that no one will take care of a lonely 80-year-old man." Garen laughed, "Oh, where are your children? Relatives? How come I’ve never seen them before?"
"Who knows?" The old man complained as a glimpse of despair flashed across his face. "Okay let’s talk about something else. What’s happening with you? You wouldn’t visit me if you didn’t have something on your mind."
"You know me too well." Garen saw the old man’s expression and knew the topic of children probably touched on the old man’s past sorrow. He changed the subject. "I am here to ask for advice on how to appraise antiques and jewelry. Since you have an antique store, you must be knowledgeable in the area?"
"This is simple!" The old man sat up straight and glanced at Garen. "But..." He extended his palm in front of Garen.
Garen slapped a stack of cash into the old man’s hand.
The hand was still extended.
His face solemn, Garen added $1,000 more to the pile.
"Old man open your eyes, that’s $1,000 per stack!"
"I know it is $1,000 per stack, but it takes years of knowledge and experience to build a career in appraisal. My long history in this business would warrant a small cost." Old Man Gregor pocketed the $2,000 dollars with a pleased face.
"It’s only $2,000. I am going easy on you."
"Let me teach you about the basics about the appraisal." The old man cleared his throat. "Appraisal includes techniques in a few areas, the first being authenticity identification. The second is determining the age of the antique, the third is tracing the origin, and the fourth is understanding the value of the craftsmanship. All four areas would require an extensive amount of time to learn and practice. Which one do you want to learn first?"
"Can I learn all of them at the same time? I am confident in myself."
"Learn at the same time?" The old man looked at Garen under the light. He gazed blankly as his vision seemed to have blurred. "Learn all of them at the same time? Confident? It’s unfortunate, but you don’t have the talent," th
e old man said, murmuring the last sentence under his breath.
After Garen improved his physical status, his hearing was also augmented. He overheard the old man’s murmur, but didn’t seem to mind. Everyone had their own secrets and some chose to keep them private.
"Can I learn about authenticity identification first?"
"No problem." The old man suddenly seemed interested. He touched his lips as he opened the drawer below the table. He took out a stack of white paper and two quills and then wetted the tips with ink from a jar.
"Authenticity identification is the most difficult area to master in appraisal. It is dependent on the experience and time spent with antiques." He drew a circle on the white paper and marked the circle with a cross.
"Do you know what this is?" He pointed at the shape.
"No. A circle shaped window?" Garen attempted to guess the shape on the figure.
"It’s a unique symbol that belonged to a master jeweler from the Voyager Era. If you understand this symbol, then it would be possible to deduce the year, level, and category related to this crucial detail. If you don’t know, it would be impossible to identify anything meaningful."
Garen nodded his head deep in thought. "You are trying to tell me that for authenticity identification, it is not only about the craftsmanship details related to the antique. It is also necessary to use history and special background knowledge to be able to determine whether the antique is authentic or not."
"Hmm? You are pretty bright and quick to understand." The old man was about to state the key point, but Garen managed to guess it. He looked slightly surprised. "I was about to give you a counterfeit. It would be impossible to determine the authenticity without the unique symbol. But you are quick to realize the critical insight."
He paused. "Since you already understand, then you know that to identify authentic antiques you must be knowledgeable in history, craftsmanship from different eras, famous master craftsmen, genres, classifications, renowned case studies, manufacturing specifics, and production origins. A lot of times you must combine everything together to reach an accurate conclusion when appraising antiques and jewelry.
"So the first thing I need to do is to learn the background knowledge?" Garen nodded. "Are there any books?"
"There are, but books alone won’t help you that much. Take a look at them first, then I’ll teach you about my appraisal experiences and special techniques. Let’s do this step by step. A lot of things are not covered in the books. Other than by sight, you must also use smell, hear, touch and taste in appraisal. Only understanding the theories would be pointless without practical experience, but read the books first."
The old man dug through the bookshelf and found a white book. "This is ."
He then grabbed a thicker black book, "This is ."
He stacked the books together and pushed them in front of Garen.
"Take these home with you, then find me after you are done."
Garen stared at the two giant books speechlessly. "How long would it take for me to finish these two? It’s at least 1000 pages per book."
"No rush, take it slow, as long as you finish it within a month." The old man shook his hand. "Now get out of here. I need to clean up and sleep now."
Garen grabbed the two books. "Okay I’ll come and find you after I finish."
"Oh, hold on." The old man smacked his head. "You were asking about the other book last time, right? Since you seem to have fancied that book, I’ll give it to you as a small souvenir."
He dug in his pants and grabbed a small pendant. It was shaped like an open book.
"Here you go." He threw the pendant over.
Garen caught the pendant and began examining it. It was only the size of a fingernail. The pendant was delicately crafted with a pitch-black color. The opened book had a peculiar dark red symbol inside.
"It was a gift from when I bought the book. Just keep it for now." The old man scratched in his pants again as if he were itchy.
Garen quivered and stuffed the pendant into his pocket "Where did you find this? That’s disgusting. Ok, I’ll go now."
"Go on." The old man waved his hand with an irritated look.
Garen came out of the antique shop and waited for a carriage. After none were seen for 10 minutes due to the isolated location of the store, he had to walk toward Pennington street with his books.
When he passed by his uncle’s place, he looked up at his uncle’s window. He caught a glimpse of Lombarth hastily walking away from the window, leaving the window shaking. It felt like he was avoiding Garen.
Garen originally intended to visit his uncle, but he lost his interest when he saw that Lombarth was at home. After the conflict with Lombarth last time, Garen felt annoyed every time he saw his cousin’s face.
"This guy has been quiet lately." Garen had walked a few steps before he heard hasty footsteps behind him.
"Brother Garen!" A girl’s youthful voice echoed behind him.
Garen turned around and saw a young girl blushing as she ran towards him.
The girl wore a white cotton shirt along with a pair of white jeans. The jeans flawlessly traced her graceful and energetic figure. At the age of 14, she didn’t seem to have hit puberty.
The girl carried a light fragrance that only belonged to a teenage girl. Her short light red hair set an energetic vibe in the air.
"Brother Garen, you are already here. Why don’t you come up?" The girl was his uncle’s other child, Phelia. In contrast to Lombarth, Phelia always acted energetic around Garen. Because of this, Garen always enjoyed playing with younger kids.
"I didn’t see you, Phelia." Garen smiled as he gently pinched the girl’s nose. "Why did you cut your hair?"
"I am learning martial arts right now." The girl performed a rudimentary move.
"He is hosting some visitors right now. They only talk about complicated subjects. It’s boring there. Can you come up and play with me?" Phelia shook Garen’s arm. "Next time, since Uncle is busy right now. It would be rude of me to interrupt."
"Also, my father was unhappy when he heard the news about the acceptance ceremony." Phelia lowered her voice. "My father said that he doesn’t want you to waste your time studying martial arts as long you learn enough to protect yourself. It would be a waste of time to put all your energy in it."
Garen raised his eyebrows. "I thought Uncle would be happy."