Li Du's tone was harsh; there was, of course, no need to show these people any courtesy.
The men still regarded him as a softie and surrounded him with either their arms folded or their chests puffed up.
Sophie was worried about Li Du being at the losing end, and so hastily went up to stand by him.
Li Du turned toward her with a heartfelt smile. Blocking Sophie, he looked at the group of them and sneered, "Well, how about it? Are you guys asking for a fight?"
These people did not make any move; the topless young man rubbed his chin and said, "Hey softie, you know that your words will only get you a beating, right?"
"Before you act," Li Du said, "better find out who you're up against in case you die unforeseen deaths. The scenery in Winslow may be nice but it's a small rural place. I understand why you guys may not be aware."
Listening to him and seeing his confident demeanor and scornful expression, they hesitated.
They had provoked Li Du simply because they were jealous of him being with a gorgeous girl like Sophie. They had also believed him cowardly but now it seemed Li Du was tougher than they had assumed.
These people were neither members of the mafia nor the military and so they usually only bullied the weak. When the opponent was strong, they wouldn't dare to make any move.
After all, bullies liked to pick on the weak.
One of the men was smoking; he whispered, "So who is this guy?"
Li Du didn't wish to fight with them, not when Sophie was there. He could only rely on the little bug to fight the battle. His fighting ability wasn't at its peak, and he might not be able to defend on all fronts.
Hence, the best strategy was to instill fear in them.
As soon as the man with the cigarette in his mouth finished speaking, Li Du employed Time Deceleration and then stepped forward to remove the cigarette from him.
With the cigarette in hand, he moved backward and, using his right hand, he snubbed it out by crushing the cigarette butt into the topless man's chest.
As he stepped back, Time Deceleration ceased. He raised the cigarette to show them, then flicked it away as he said expressionlessly, "Don't smoke in public places."
The topless man cried out, "F*ck, that hurts!"
All he dared to say was that one-liner. Upon seeing what Li Du was capable of, these gem hunters didn't dare to make any moves.
They were beyond not having the guts to make further movesthey were frightened out of their wits.
Li Du moved at such lightning speed that before they could even take a good look, the cigarette in his mouth had already been snatched away and used to burn one of them.
If it was a knife Li Du held
This thought crossed their minds at the same time and they exchanged looks before shrinking away backward without even another glance at Sophie.
Sophie hugged his waist from behind and giggled softly, "Wow, how amazing are you?"
Li Du spread his arms out. "Just being quick on my feet, that's all."
Sophie had been worried about the two parties clashing; she had a mild temperament by nature and having the other party admit defeat was good enough for her.
Hence, as she spoke, she pulled Li Du's hand and dragged him over to the other side.
There was a Petrified Forest near where they were, and so they took a stroll there, hand in hand.
The scenery at the national park was beautiful; besides the natural petrified wood, there was also some Native American architecture.
The area surrounding the Petrified Forest was once home to several Native American tribes before Columbus discovered the American continentsome distinctive buildings had been left behind.
Li Du had searched for information on the park on his way there, and seeing that Sophie was amazed at the sizes of the petrified wood, it was the perfect time to share it with her. "There are many legends about them, do you want to hear?"
Sophie asked expectantly, "Like what?"
"Do you know the Paiutes? This tribe believes that the petrified wood makes the giant shafts of Raytheon, while the Navajo think that they are the bones of the mythical giant Yietso."
There were a few small homes near the Petrified Forest which had belonged to the Native Americans. They had since been fenced up for tourists to view.
These houses had been built by the Native Americans using petrified trees and clay mud. They were fire-resistant, waterproof, and sturdy. According to the informational plaque, the houses had been in existence for more than 1,200 years.
The Native Americans had keen aesthetic tastes. When they had built these houses, they had deliberately chosen the more beautiful stones. This was so that when the sun's rays shined on the houses, a myriad of colors would be reflected.
"No wonder they're called agate houses," Sophie exclaimed in delight. "They're really as brilliant as agate!"
As the two of them were sight-seeing, there was a shout coming from where the gem hunters were. "F*ck f*ck f*ck! God, I've found it!"
There were quite a few tourists around and, hearing the shout, everyone turned around to look.
As the other hunters gathered, someone held a small stone as he walked toward the tourists with his head raised up high.
As he neared, Li Du managed to get a look at the stone.
The stone was not bigonly as large as his nail. The oval-shaped pebble was a muddy orange-red shade. As the man held this stone up against the sunlight, a rainbow appeared within the stone!
Sophie gasped, "Oh my, so pretty! This is a fire opal!"
The opal was one of the most beautiful and precious gemstones in the world. Chemically, it comprised silicate molecules and water. It could appear colorless or in white, light gray, dark gray, and black. The different colors of opal had different names and were charming in their own way.
It was a fire opal in this man's hand; this was one of the most precious of opals. This type could only be found in Mexico and in other southern parts of the US. Of course, the Petrified Forest was an important location where the fire opal could be found. The gem hunters were there to mainly look for it.
However, as the fire opal was rare, not many people could find it. Instead, most people were there to look for stones such as the beautiful agate and chalcedony.
Seeing the fire opal in the man's hand, the tourists surrounded him in excitement.
"God, this thing is gorgeous!"
"Too pretty, darling, I like it!"
"This lucky b*st*rd, he's found a gem!"
As Li Du looked at Sophie's enthralled expression, he asked, "Do you like it?"
Sophie unconsciously nodded and then shook her head vigorously. "Not really. That fire opal is a little muddy, not great. I don't really like it."
Even if one were deaf, one could still hear how her words belied her thoughts.
But she was right: this fire opal was not the best there was. Opals were formed from the gel or liquid silica that had remained in the cracks of ground formation and deposited in caves to form amorphous non-crystal gemstones. This way, the silica could have come into contact with a number of things, such as animal and plant residue, tree fragments, shells, and bones.
This was why the opal could eventually look muddy. This residue, however, also contributed to the magical landscapes within the opals, such as the rainbow in this particular opal.