To Li Du, the old goods market was a place for the little bug to replenish its time capability; he was not banking on finding anything valuable in such a place.
After all, nobody was stupid. The second hand goods treasure hunters walked around the market ten times daily. Even if there was anything of value, it would not be left for Li Du.
Even if there were valuable items, there was no way to get them. They could only either be bartered for other items of similar prices or be bought at exorbitant prices.
This was not Li Du's motive. He had gone to the old goods market not to earn money, but to find items with time capability for the little bug.
Throughout December, he had searched the northern and northwestern Arizonian countryside for such items. He had spent quite a hefty sum, as well as traded many items. As a result, the little bug had absorbed a significant amount of time capability.
However, while it had taken in much time capability, it was still unable to carry out another evolution.
Of course, the absorption of time capability was not in vain; some results had been achieved.
The connection between the little bug and Li Du was now stronger. In terms ofevolution, Li Du could feel that the little bug needed to go through another cycle of evolution, and the time capability needed to be of enhanced quality.
That was to say, it was pointless to for it to absorb only a little capability. He needed something that was rich in time capability for the little bug to take it all in at one go.
There were many places in the United States, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and the Los Angeles Art Collection Center.
However, Li Du didn't want to do so, as this move would interfere with his principles.
He feared that if he went to the museum and earned success for doing nothing, he would become lazy and lose the will to continue working to pursue items with time capability.
The little bug needed to keep absorbing time capability in order to survive and evolve. If he kept going to museums to destroy cultural relics and antiques, problems might arise and he would get caught sooner or later.
He couldn't take the risk. His ancestors were right: If one walked along the river often, he wouldn't be able to avoid getting his shoes wet. There was no wall in the world that was totally non-porous!
In late December, Li Du had basically finished going one round in the old goods market. They returned to Flagstaff to prepare for Christmas, before heading home to celebrate the new year.
The climate in Southern Arizona was still rather warm during this time. Being in the northern region, Flagstaff started to turn colder. There was neither rain nor snow; the weather was dry and cold, causing Li Du to keep shivering.
Hans suggested, "Shall we go to Tucson for Christmas? Tucson's climate is much warmer."
Li Du refused. "Then we might as well go to Australia or New Zealand. It's now summer in the southern hemisphere."
Hans was initially stunned, then he exclaimed excitedly, "On yeah, let's go to the southern hemisphere for Christmas. I've never spent Christmas in summer. It should be fun."
Li Du shoved him. "Get lost. Where would we find the time? I gotta keep my Sophie company, and then return to China. You're coming with me to Chinait's not that cold in my hometown."
Hans asked doubtfully, "China and United States are both in the northern hemisphere. Why is your hometown not cold?"
Li Du said, "Because China is more vast than the United States. Currently, Montana and Minnesota are covered in snow but it's sunny in Florida and New Mexico. The geographical location of my hometown in China is similar to Florida's geographical location in the United States."
After listening to him, Hans began to look forward to the trip.
On Christmas Eve, the hospital that Sophie worked at started the holiday break. She was lucky that she didn't need to be on duty this Christmas, so she could relax a little.
Americans attached great importance to Christmas, especially those from the smaller towns and rural areas.
On Christmas Eve, Li Du drove Sophie to the villa where Mr. and Mrs. Martin lived.
The old man held a pipe and waited at the door. As he saw the two of them alight from the car, he waved. "Hey, young chap and young girl, welcome to Lord Martin's residence. Come forth and receive Santa Claus' blessing!"
Sophie chuckled and then went up to give her old man a hug. Then she removed his pipe and frowned. "Why are you smoking again?"
Mrs. Martin, who was busy in the kitchen, saw them and dried her hands before walking out. She greeted Li Du first, and then told her daughter, "The truth is: your dear father never quit smoking."
Sophie said, "I always thought he'd been succeeded in quitting. What's up with this pipe?"
Mrs. Martin said, "Let him smoke with the pipe. The tobacco that he grows is healthier than all those store-bought cigars and cigarettes. As for this pipe, this was from your boyfriend."
Hearing that, Sophie looked at Li Du with furrowed eyebrows.
Li Du was dumbfounded and offered a wry smile. "Mrs. Martin, is this a misunderstanding or set-up? I swear I never gave the old man a pipe."
"You gifted him with the raw material of his pipe," Mrs. Martin reminded gently.
It suddenly hit Li Du. "Oh. This was made from the narwhal's tooth?"
The old man waved it in front of them smugly. "How is my workmanship? I haven't done such woodwork for a long time. I felt out of practice this time. I'm afraid I'll have to depend on Li to cut down that Christmas tree for us."
There were more woods located around Flagstaff. Normally, tree-felling was not allowed, but during Christmas season, it was fine to cut down pine trees as Christmas trees.
Putting down the gift, the old man drove the pickup truck over, all set to go into the woods with Li Du.
Sophie and her mother prepared the tools for them and before they left, the ladies gave reminders to their respective partners. As Sophie tidied Li Dui's clothes, she said gently,
"Be careful when you cut down the tree. Have you ever cut down a Christmas tree before?"
Li Du said, "No, but I've got strength. There should be no problem cutting trees."
Hearing his answer, Sophie shouted to the old man, "Dad, Li has never cut a Christmas tree before, so you'd better do it."
The old man spread his hand open and said, "My beloved daughter has spoken. As a father, what else can I do?"
They took the tools and drove off. Li Du drove while Mr. Martin sat at the passenger seat, whistling a merry tune that Li Du had never heard of.
After whistling, he said cheerfully, "Li, can you guess what my Christmas wish was last year?"
"Is it world peace?" Li Du asked.
The old man guffawed, "I like your humor, but I am not such a benevolent fellow."
Li Du said, "Then my guess is that you wanted Santa to give Sophie a boyfriend."
The old man laughed again, and said, "Pretty close, my young man. My wish then was to not have to cut down the Christmas tree by myself again the following Christmas!
"You have no idea what it's like. Since my father died, I've been cutting down Christmas trees by myself all these years. My God, this is really a lonely journey and I've always wanted a companion. Now, Sophie has finally sent one to me."
Li Du was gratified to receive such a praise from his future father-in-law. He said, "I feel honored to be accompanying you."
"You can be even more honored, young man. The glorious task of cutting down a tree is yours." The old man's smile looked even more crooked.