Looking at the opals, Sophie really thought it was all thanks to Crispy Noodles. She hugged the raccoon and said in a pleasantly surprised tone, "Is this a little gem hunter? Raccoons can search for fire opals? I've never heard of anything like that."
Li Du swiped away the perspiration on his forehead. "Maybe. Perhaps Crispy Noodles is different from other raccoons."
"Of course," said Sophie, "he's not like any other raccoon. Even if he didn't know how to look for a gem, he's nothing like other raccoons."
Li Du was quite startled to hear that from Sophie. He instantly thought that maybe Sophie had noticed something.
"Crispy Noodles is so much smarter than other raccoons," continued Sophie. "This is much different behavior from other raccoons."
Li Du still hadn't finished searching the piece of land.
A hectare was pretty big. The landscape was uneven with huge boulders, rocks and pits of various sizes in the ground. It was a three-dimensional search as the little bug had to search underground, for the fire opals could be hidden under the small stones and rocks.
Seeing that Li Du was perspiring a lot and that his eyes looked tired, Sophie thought it was because of the heat. She quickly brought him to sit under the shade of a tree and got him a cold drink. She even took some ice and wrapped it with gauze to cool him down.
Li Du sat down quietly and enjoyed being fussed over by Sophie. The feeling of being taken care of was great.
It was already the afternoon. They sat in the shade, drinking their cold drinks, not planning to go back yet because they were waiting for the sunset. They wanted to watch the sunset in the Petrified Forest.
People in Winslow said that the Petrified Forest had two moments in the day of the most intense colors; the sunrise and the sunset. Besides these two beautiful moments, for the rest of day it was like the land was taking a nap.
There were artists in the National Park who were either sketching or doing some oil paintings or photography and so on. Their works mainly revolved around the rocks and the sun.
Sophie sat under the tree with Ah Meow, Crispy Noodles and Ah Ow, which formed a beautiful scene all by itself.
In the afternoon, some rays of sunlight escaped through the leaves and branches and shined on Sophie, making the image even more charming.
Not long after, Ah Ow suddenly twitched her ears and got up, looking at a small hill. Li Du followed her line of sight and saw a middle-aged man emerge from the shadows, holding a drawing.
"Hi there, both of you," the man greeted.
Li Du nodded. "Hi, pal."
The man walked over and handed a drawing to them. "I was passing by earlier and I saw both of you. I couldn't help but draw a sketch. Please pardon me for not getting your permission to do so."
The white paper had a sketch of a graceful girl in her riding attire sitting below the shade of a tree with a bright smile on her face. An ocelot was lying lazily on her lap, and she was playing with a puppy she held in both of her hands. There was also a raccoon nestled beside her.
The middle-aged man was good at drawing. Even Li Du, who was not an artistic person, could tell that right away.
They did not know how much time the artist had spent on the sketch but it was evident he had been focused and detailed in his work. Sophie's radiant smile, the ocelot's lazy and proud aura, the naughty puppy's liveliness, and everything else, were all shown on the paper.
Li Du was trying hard to search for somethinghe was searching for himself in the sketch.
The sketch was not that big, but as he couldn't find himself anywhere in it, he asked, "Pal, where am I?"
The middle-aged artist smiled and hovered a finger over the edge of the paper, then pointed to a few simple lines and said, "You're here."
Li Du felt like slapping the artist's face with the sketch!
He had originally admired the artist, but now he felt the artist was a scoundrel. Son of a b*tch! he thought. That sketch is his way of talking to Sophie. It's not for artistic purposes!
Sophie thanked the artist politely. "This sketch is very nicely drawn. Can you sell it to us?"
The artist waved his hands. "The sketch is for you, miss. I should give it to you."
Sophie shook her head with a smile. "No, I'll buy it. Alright, honey, pay the money."
Li Du was willing to pay for it. Buying a drawing was different from receiving the drawing as a gift. Sophie had declined the artist's drawing as a gift and insisted on purchasing it. This revealed that she really liked the drawing, but at the same time it also showed her close relationship with Li Du.
The artist was not ignorant. He understood what she was trying to do. He shrugged his shoulders and said, "Just a dollar will do. In fact, I gained more from sketching it."
Li Du gave him a one-hundred-dollar bill. "One dollar's too little. We should respect art. This sketch is definitely worth a hundred dollars."
He didn't know who this artist was, but from the way he sketched he must have been a famous artistone hundred dollars could be too small.
They paid for the sketch but the artist didn't go away. He hung around and talked to Sophie. "Are you here for sightseeing? Or gem hunting?"
The earlier question was directed at Sophie while the latter was directed at Li Du. Li had a pickaxe with him, his body was covered with dust and soilhe looked like a miner.
Sophie was appreciating the sketch and remained quiet. "We're here for sightseeing," answered Li Du. "We incidentally found a few stones. And as you can see, we're taking a break now."
Li's words sounded somewhat rude, as if he was asking him to leave them alone.
Nevertheless, Li Du thought it was necessary. Even though he sounded rude, the artist didn't leave. As if he never heard Li's words, he continued prattling along:
"Both of you are tourists? So you're waiting for the sunset? I must say, you both made the right choice. I know how amazing the sunset here is. I'm usually drawing when it's the sunrise and sunset here."
Sophie said regretfully, "Oh, I'm not interested."
"If you've seen the sunset, you'll be interested. At that time, the light rays change every moment, the same goes for the scenery. When the light rays are strong, the colors of the rocks will become more intense and full. When the light rays"
"Sorry," Sophie interrupted. "I mean I'm not interested in your work. Not that I'm not interested in the scenery."
The artist was stunned for a moment. But he still persisted and said, "Uh, in short, the rocks here will change with the intensity of the sunlight, and change accordingly. It's really breathtaking."
The artist seemed to have been conquered by Sophie's charm. Even though he was treated coldly by both Li Du and Sophie, he still continued to stay and talk to her. It seemed as if he might confess to Sophie at any moment.
Sophie had no choice but to make a face at Li Du. Then she stood up, held Ah Ow in one arm and dragged both Ah Meow and Crispy Noodles away.
The artist followed them, but when both of them got on their horses and rode away, he stood dumbstruck.
Leaving behind the artist, Li Du said, "That guy is crazy. Has he lost all ability for rational thought?"
"That artist is actually pretty normal. When you are in the arts, you need to be stubborn enough. Otherwise, it's difficult to break away from the constraints of society and achieve great things that could go down in history."
They rode to a hill and waited until the sun started to fall down through the west. It was finally sunset.
The two of them stood on a red sandstone hill. The rays of the sunlight made the red sandstone looked like the color of fresh blood.