Sophie brought Li Du down from the stage as the crowd cheered with joy. The attention made Sophie feel shy and embarrassed. This was much different from her usually-confident demeanor as an attending physician, as well as an operating surgeon.
Both of them knew they couldn't stay at the square: they had the full attention of the crowd. Many people were ogling over them to the extent of not bothering about the still-ongoing auction for the sixth participant.
Sophie bit her lip and seemed to suddenly become angry. "It's all your faultwhy did you step forward?"
Li Du was dumbstruck for a moment, and replied helplessly, "How can you blame me?" He wanted to explain himself, but was sensitive enough to notice Sophie's pouting had escalated to real anger. He immediately caught on that he had made a mistake.
"We can only blame fate, fate wanted that to happen," Mr. Li changed his tune. "But I'm grateful to fate, and Sophie, I love you!"
Sophie was no longer angry after hearing his words. "You love me? What's love?"
Li Du looked at her with hesitation. Romance was a type of knowledge that he was not good at. He didn't understand what Sophie meant. Had she not just done all that to show her feelings for him?
Seeing his bewildered expression, Sophie gave a soft chuckle and urged, "Come on, tell me, what's love? You say you love me. So, what's love?"
Li Du and Sophie walked hand-in-hand to a huge oak tree. He looked up at the lush tree crown and said, "Sophie, to tell the truth, I don't know what love is."
The lady doctor pouted her lips in protest to that response.
"I've never experienced love, it's true. I've never expected to find love. What I do know is that every time I see you, I feel happy, from the bottom of my heart. When you're happy, I feel happy, and if you're sad, I feel very sad.
"Every time I need to leave Flagstaff to participate in an auction, I try to come back as soon as possibleeven if I can't see you immediately. I feel at ease when I'm close to you."
He held the lady doctor's dainty hands firmly. "I've fantasized about marital life. The girls I've fantasized about are the ones I feel good around.
"However, when I think about the possibility of living with them for my whole life, living together for 50 years, 60 years knowing every morning when I wake up, I'll see their face, and I have to prepare dinner for them every day, I feel terrible.
"But, you're different. I've thought that if I could wake up and see you every day, I'd be very happy. If I could see you every night before I sleep, I'm going to have sweet dreams."
Sophie's eyes were sparkling as she listened to him; the corners of her mouth curved into a radiant smile.
Li Du held her hands and gazed into her eyes. "I think I'm really in love with you. If these feelings are not love, then throughout my whole life, I have never and will not ever love anyone, including my parents and closest friends."
Sophie was staring at him, and Li Du's cheeks flushed red.
Li Du thought that maybe it was time to kiss? He licked his lips to prepare for the kiss. She was still looking at him, however, and her eyes were so clear and serene...
He had to speak his mind. "Could you close your eyes? I can't do it like that."
"Close my eyes for what?" asked a confused Sophie. "Do it? Do what? God! No, what are you thinking? I'm looking at you because I'm waiting for your confession!"
Her tone was a mixture of confusion and anger, but she instantly broke into laughter as wella messy combination of feelings.
"Oh, oh, I haven't confessed?" asked a nervous Li Du. "Right. Sophie Martin, I love you. Would you be my girlfriend?"
Sophie smiled and said, "Of course. In the name of God, yes."
Li Du thought for a moment and said, "What if I proposed to you now?"
Sophie rolled her eyes. "Then I'd get Ah Ow to bite you." Suddenly the sweet smile on her face froze, then she exclaimed in panic, "Oh no! Ah Ow! Where's Ah Ow?"
Li Du was dazed as well. "Oh gosh, Ah Meow and Crispy Noodles!"
Sophie had been too flustered earlier and had left the pets behind after dragging Li Du away from the stage. The two of them had been so overwhelmed by the incident and their feelings that they'd forgotten about the little ones.
Ah Meow felt that his life as a pet was a tragedyhe was once again abandoned!
He felt that he was used to being "abandoned" and "forgotten." The ocelot used his extraordinary sense of smell to find Li Du and Sophie. Crispy Noodles followed behind, carrying the chubby little Ah Ow by the scruff in his mouth.
Li Du and Sophie were relieved to see them. Mr. Li squeezed Ah Meow's small ears and reprimanded, "No more running about unnecessarily, okay? What if you got lost? If you got caught by others, you might get eaten!"
"Meowwuu, Meowwuu!" Ah Meow protested. Look who's talking, daddy, you really got some nerve to say this. If not for the love I have for you, I would claw you in the face.
The Michaelmas celebration at the city square was too crowded; it was not a suitable place for a date, so they decided to leave.
Just as they were on their way to get out of the square, they saw Mr. and Mrs. Martin with some familiar faces. Mr. Martin was winking at them; his expression was proud as well as gratified.
Sophie wondered, "What's with my dad's face? What is he proud of?"
"You also think that he seems proud?" Li Du asked. "If that's the case, I feel that what happened earlier might have something to do with it."
When they had arrived at the square around noon, he exchanged a few words with the mayor. Later on, Mr. and Mrs. Martin had spoken to the mayor and pointed at him.
This hadn't bothered him earlier. As he recalled the incident, however, he started to feel that today's events had been planned by Sophie's dad.
As the two of them speculated about the incident, Sophie's parents came up to them.
Sophie lifted her arm to show them that she and Li Du were now holding hands. "Dad, look, you don't have to worry about me being a lesbian now."
This caught Li Du completely off-guarded. He stared at the Martins in astonishment. Li was blown away by that notion. Mr. and Mrs. Martin thought she was a lesbian?
Mr. Martin gave a cough and smiled. "What are you saying? Congratulations, both of you. You've found your suitable other half. What are your plans for tonight?"
"I'm not going to tell," said Sophie with a naughty smile. "What if you two wanna join in?"
Mr. Martin shrugged his shoulders. "Look, I brought my daughter up and now she's treating me this way. I have to reflect on my parenting methods."
Li Du smiled without saying anything, for he wanted to maintain the image of "Your future son-in-law is a gentleman" for Mr. and Mrs. Martin.
Well, that was one reason. His silence was also because he was not used to how Western children interacted with their parents. Sophie and her parents treated each other as friends, teasing and making fun of each other. This was very different from the family culture he had been exposed to since childhood.
They were chatting with each other when a man around Mr. Martin's age came up to them and said, "Hi, Sophie, Li, it's nice to meet you both here."
Li Du smiled at the man. He seemed familiar, and Li remembered that he was the mayor of Highland Town. Not long ago, he and Hans had gotten hold of some firefighting equipment, including a fire extinguisher, and had made plans to auction it all at the old goods market. In the end, they donated all of the firefighting equipment to Highland Town, to this middle-aged man.
The awkward part of this was that Li Du could not remember the name of this man.