Godzilla and Big Quinn nodded approvingly while eating the stew with bread after having added the chili.
Godzilla loved to smack his lips while eating. Although Big Quinn had been brought up well and ate his meals quietly, having spent so much time with Godzilla made him pick up the habit of smacking his lips as well.
Li Du considered it to be a bad habit. When he was young, his parents would hit his mouth with chopsticks whenever he smacked his lips while eating.
However, truth be told, when eating in a group, the smacking of lips was satisfying and made the meal seem more scrumptious.
Consequently, hearing Godzilla and Big Quinn smacking their lips made him follow suit.
Sophie noticed it and gave him an admonitory stare.
Li Du was stunned. "What's the matter? You want some chili, too?"
Sophie was left speechless. She decided to set a good example by eating her stew and bread in small bites.
Sadly, Li Du had no intention of correcting himself. Seeing that Sophie had no request, he affably pushed the pickled bamboo shoots in front of her and continued devouring his food while smacking his lips.
Sophie placed a crisp and tasty piece of the bamboo shoot into her mouth. As it had been in ice, it was cool, which made it taste even better.
With that, she no longer cared about Li Du's table manners and was happily eating the cooling sweet and sour bamboo shoots that were simply delectable.
After placing a piece inside his mouth, Godzilla smiled, pointed at the bamboo shoots and said, "Eat this! They are delicious."
Without hesitation, Li Du pushed the container of bamboo shoots nearer to Sophie and said defensively, "These were prepared for your boss's lady. You guys can eat the meat!"
"It's not as delicious as the bamboo shoots," Godzilla argued.
Li Du mumbled, "You aren't dumb after all. Of course, the bamboo shoots are the best."
"You cannot do this, Boss. We are your most loyal subordinates, and what you are doing will affect our trust in you," Big Quinn exaggerated.
Godzilla added, "And it won't affect you."
Seeing the three quarrel, Sophie chuckled before proceeding to split the bamboo shoots in the container in half, leaving one half for herself. She pushed the other half in front of the two and said, "That's for me, and these are for you two."
Godzilla, with his fast reflexes, took their half and poured it straight into his own bowl.
Big Quinn was dazed. "Would you understand what I mean if I were to say f*ck?"
They had to start work after their meals. As the National Park was surrounded by barren lands, its temperature was higher than that of Flagstaff's. Even the afternoon winds were hot here.
Unfortunately, by the time they finished their meals it was already two o'clock, which was the hottest time of the day. All they had to do was stand under the sun for a while, let alone do work, to be completely drenched in sweat.
Li Du lifted the four corners of the tent, pumped air into the air cushion of the sleeping bag and proceeded to lay on it with Sophie to cool off.
Ah Meow, Crispy Noodles, and Ah Ow lay around them. The three of them were heating up Li Du like three small furnaces, causing him to constantly wipe his sweat.
Sophie's cheeks were flushed. Li Du helped her to wipe her sweat and asked, "How is it? Do you regret coming here now?"
The female doctor was unperturbed and replied, "Don't look down on me. I am not like a greenhouse's small delicate flower. When I was interning at a war hospital in Iraq, I once had to perform surgery on people in the trenches while enduring the 50 plus degree weather."
"You are amazing," Li Du praised.
Big Quinn raised a beer and asked, "Boss, want one?"
Li Du shook his head. "No thanks, I will drink tonight instead."
Big Quinn went to the back of the truck and took out a bottle of beer from the cooler before throwing it at Godzilla. He then took two bottles of orange juice and handed it over to the two. "Don't think you will reject these."
Li Du smiled after seeing the orange juice and replied, "You prepared these?"
"My wife prepared them," Big Quinn responded. "She freshly juiced them and even added some mint. They can quench your thirst and are also refreshing."
Truth be told, Li Du had already drunk a mouthful of the orange juice, which left a light, refreshing feeling in his mouth.
While they were drinking their cold beverages, some gem hunters noticed them and walked over to say hello.
Seeing them drinking cold beverages to cool off, the hunters full of envy said, "Hey mates, are you guys here for a vacation? You guys seem to know how to enjoy yourselves."
Li Du did not spot any traces of Cyril amongst them and said in a friendly manner, "Want some?"
The gem hunters, being also boorish themselves, were not shy and hearing his invitation said, "If it's beer then it's okay. We still have work to do. However, if you still have other cold beverages, it would be great to have some."
Big Quinn stood up, looked around and said, "We don't have enough juice left as I didn't bring much. Will cola do? It has been chilled, too."
The gem hunters were not picky and each had a chilled bottle of cola. They drank with their heads raised while repeatedly exclaiming how cooling it was.
After seeing their pitched tents, one gem hunter asked, "Are you guys planning to stay here for the long haul?"
Li Du nodded. "At least two nights, so as not to waste the nighttime."
An Asian gem hunter replied, "If you are planning to stay for the long haul, you should keep in contact with a few people so that you guys can look after each other. It's very dangerous here."
The one-mile circumference area was very large. If there was only one group of gem hunters, the nights would be very lonely.
However, Li Du did not know these rules as he was still a rookie.
After avoiding the high-temperature period, the gem hunters bid farewell and everyone began working.
Looking at the scorching sun on the western horizon, Li Du sighed, "The state of Arizona is located atop a volcano. At this time, the autumn winds should already be blowing."
Godzilla grunted, "Back at my uncle's place, it's already snowing."
"There's a place in Mexico that cold?" Li Du asked in surprise.
Godzilla retorted, "My uncle is in Alaska."
Li Du realized he was running on a different frequency from Godzilla.
Sophie responded, "Winslow's weather isn't bad. Maybe the temperature has been rising recently. As you know, for the past few years we have been experiencing the effects of climate change."
Li Du thought about it and concluded that it was possibly so, as their previous trip to the National Park had not been this hot.
After resting awhile, Ah Meow and Crispy Noodles had more or less digested their meal. This was especially so for Crispy Noodles, who was already hungry again from having eaten less during lunch.
Li Du had waited for him to starve or else he would not search for the preserved fruit.
Crispy Noodles did not pick up the scent of the preserved fruit. He went over in front of Sophie and began tugging at her. He had learned from Ah Ow that by tugging on Sophie, she would give him food.
However, Sophie would not budge and said, "Crispy Noodles, can you eat just two meals a day? You cannot eat too much or else you will grow fat and suffer."
Crispy Noodles gave her a miserable look. Elderly me has already been starving 'til there's nothing but skin left, and you still dare to say that I am fat?
Li Du dragged him away and said, "Come, go and search for gemstones. If you manage to find a gemstone, I will reward you with some delicious preserved fruit."
Li Du brought him to an area with preserved fruit. As Crispy Noodles approached the area, he could smell the scent of the preserved fruit. Feeling excited, he lay down and began digging into the crushed rock with all his might, while swinging apart his arms to dig deeper.
Godzilla and Big Quinn had been shaken awake by the sight and responded in surprise, "He found one again?"