The two of them bought various kinds of snacks in the square. The festival drew in many tourists, and in turn attracted lots of food carts to the square.
Sophie preferred food with a lighter taste, such as boiled peanuts or corn with peppers and onions. Li Du ate quite a lot of food as he'd used the Time Deceleration ability during the balloon shooting.
Li had never eaten a lot in front of Sophie before. Therefore, he was slightly bashful about eating so much.
However, when the lady doctor noticed that Li Du had a good appetite, she was like an excited little girl and brought him around to buy different types of snacks.
"Come, try an oyster egg roll. It was invented by the gold miners where they used flour-coated oysters, bacon, and eggs in a fried egg roll. They're delicious! I want some too!
"This fried potato cake is very good. Look, it's topped with curried carrot and turnip soup. Awesome! Let me have one!
"Don't just keep eating, you need a drink as well. Look, there's Quirky coffeedouble espresso with nutmeg and almonds. This is great! Wow, there's even a skull on the foam! Do you mind if I take a few sips?"
Sophie introduced the snacks to Li Du and paid for every single one. Li had wanted to pay but she stopped him and said, "No, I'm buying for you."
"Nohow can I let you pay?"
"Of course you can. You helped me win the big bear, right?"
"But you helped me take care of Ah Ow."
"Just listen to me, will you? You really want me to tell you the truth?"
Li Du was puzzled. "What truth?"
Sophie stared at the tantalizing food Li Du held as if she wanted to have another bite. She admitted, "Actually, this is all the food I want to eat but I can't. It's high in calories."
"So I'm worried I'll get fat," Sophie said. "But it would be wasteful if I only took one bite and threw it out. Now that you're here, I can take a bite and the food won't go to waste. So, of course, I should pay for the food."
Li Du now understood why Sophie always wanted a bite of all the snacks. He thought about it a little bit and felt good about the whole thing.
As they bought other snacks, he ate them with Sophie. They even drank from the same cup. The two of them walked together as if they were a pair of lovers.
After they had their fill, Sophie started to get excited. She dragged Li Du to the square and they waited in front of the stage.
Li Du asked, "What's up?"
Sophie replied with excitement, "The most interesting event is going to start soon. It's an auction!"
"Do you think that auctions are interesting?" Li Du laughed. "Then maybe you'd want to come along and see how I work. There's auctions every day."
Sophie had a mysterious smile on your face. "This is not your ordinary auction."
Li Du started to get curious as this was not the first time Sophie had refused to reveal any details about this special auction. What's this auction about? A crop auction? A livestock auction?
A crowd of people started to gather around the stage. In no time, hundreds of people were there, and everyone was talking and chatting. Li Du wanted to hear what they were saying but Sophie gave him a pair of headphones.
"What are those for?"
The lady doctor wore a playful smile. "It's to keep up the suspense. Come on, hurry up and put them on. Don't listen to what they're sayingif you do it won't be a surprise."
Li Du put on the headphones. They played some piano music, but the lady doctor had turned the volume up so high that he felt his eardrum was shaking.
About 20 minutes later, Mayor Thompson went on stage. Someone handed him a pair of white gloves, and the crowd shouted from below:
"Auction! Bachelors on auction!"
"Let's see who's this year's Golden Bachelor!"
"If there's good-looking guys, I think I'll definitely go for it and won't give in!"
Due to the sudden commotion, even with the headphones on, Li Du could hear some words. He looked at Sophie in surprise and asked, "Bachelors on auction? As in auctioning men?"
Sophie covered her mouth and giggled. "Yes, you're right. Bachelors on auction. Single men will be on auction."
Li Du felt dizzy hearing that. "Isn't this illegal? Hahadidn't President Lincoln abolish slavery?"
Sophie explained, "Of course it's not illegal. Actually this is a traditional activity. Michaelmas is equivalent to the autumn harvest celebration in Flagstaff.
"In the past, farms were harvested using hands and physical strength. Strong men were like superstars. People wanted to have a chance to have some time alone with these stars, and that gave rise to this activity during the celebration.
"When it first started, strong farmers were being auctioned. As time went by, it evolved so that now any bachelor can go up on stage. Whoever wins the bid can go to dinner or a party with the guy. Something like that."
"How does one get up on stage?" asked Li Du.
"There are many ways," said Sophie. "Like a recommendation from someone, if someone wants to go, or if someone is chosen by the auctioneer himself. That means the mayor can choose someone to go up on stage."
Her voice got louder as she spoke because the crowd had started to give deafening cheers like waves of the sea, one wave after another:
"It's starting, it's starting! My money can't wait for the auction to start!"
"Haha, I wanna see who's the golden bachelor. Darren, don't go up therethis has nothing to do with you."
"Let Carter go up there. I'm willing to spend 500 dollars to bid for Carter, that *sshole. If I win the bid, I'm going to make him work for one full day!"
Mayor Thompson used his hand and patted the microphone. "Ladies and gentlemen, fellow citizens, please be quiet. The auction is about to begin!"
The cheering shouts softened and the crowd gave a round of applause.
Mayor Thompson picked up the microphone and said, "I'm very happy to be here with all of you. I'm very excited to participate in the bachelor's auction with everyone here. Alright, without further ado, let us welcome our first bachelor on auction!"
The applause got louder as a strong, well-built young man was pushed onto the stage. He looked embarrassed as he stood there.
Li Du looked at the young man's helplessness and said sympathetically, "Oh, poor dude."
The young man was asked to remove his shirt. When he took it off, the crowd cheered and screamed. He had well-toned muscles; his chest muscles were bulging. He had nice abs with clear abdominal lines.
Mayor Thompson interacted with him and asked, "Young man, what's your name?"
The young man replied, "My name is Hugh Hoiberg."
"Alright, can I call you Hugh? Okay Hugh, tell us, where are you from?"
"I'm from Jerome."
Li Du nodded his head. He told Sophie about Jerome as he had been there before and was familiar with the place.
"What is your job?"
"I'm a miner and a fitness coach. I'm responsible for the excavation of iron ore."
Mayor Thompson laughed, "Very good. We're beginning this year's event with a bang! He's a real workera strong miner. Okay, let's start the auction. Everyone please get your money ready. I'm going to talk about the rules first!"