There was an old, porcelain bowl in the display cabinet next to them. Li Du had noticed it before this. The bowl was from the Sengoku era about four hundred years ago. It was one of the stars of this auction.
The bug flew past the tempered glass of the cabinet as if there was nothing there. Having gone in, it landed and placed its mouth on the bowl, and started sucking greedily.
Li Du watched curiously.
Suddenly, he felt something flow into his body, making him feel more refreshed and alive. He clenched a fist. It felt as if his strength had increased as well.
After a few seconds, the bug flew up into the air again. Flapping its wings, it flew into another display cabinet.
This one contained a chronometer from the eighteenth century. It looked like it was made of bronze and had a simple, timeless design. The bug plastered its mouth against the bell and started sucking greedily once more.
Li Du was only vaguely able to tell that it was sucking; what it was actually doing, he did not know.
Leaving the chronometer, the bug flew toward a silver statue. Li Du followed it. Needless to say, the bug resumed its sucking.
A few seconds later, it flew onto an English longbow from the Middle Ages. This time, after it finished sucking, the bug didn't look for another item. Instead, it flew into the air, stretched itself languidly, then flew onto Li Du's shoulder.
Just then, the yew body of the English longbow snapped in two and fell from its stand. When it fell within the display cabinet, it splintered, like glass, into many pieces.
The couple who had been standing in front of the display cabinet, looking at the longbow was startled. The woman screamed, "Ah! What is going on?!"
Li Du instinctively stepped backward. The people around him went and crowded around the longbow. He quietly moved to a corner.
His face was calm, but inside, there was chaos. He knew that what happened to the longbow had something to do with the bug!
There were many staff members from the auction company around the area. The head of security and the manager quickly came over. They were stunned to see what had happened to the longbow.
The couple shook their hands and denied having anything to do with it. "We have no idea what happened. The bow just snapped suddenly, on its own, and then it crashed and broke."
Hearing this, the manager smiled and consoled the couple. Then he told the head of security, "Hurry, go to the control room, find out what happened!"
Each display cabinet had a camera monitoring it to avoid theft.
Li Du felt a little guilty. He was somewhat at fault, although no one else knew.
All those participating in the auction were collectors. There were even some true experts among them. A silver-haired old man frowned after looking at the longbow closely. "The bow looks like it broke due to natural weathering and old age."
Li Du looked at the porcelain bowl and the chronometer. He felt that the bowl wasn't as lustrous as before. The chronometer, too, now looked worn-out.
A thought occurred to him: Could the bug have absorbed the life force of the objects?
The head of security returned quickly with an iPad to the front of the display cabinet with the longbow. He showed a camera recording on the iPad to the manager and the old man.
The old man spoke incredulously while watching. "From here on, within five seconds, it suddenly... started swiftly aging!?"
The manager was flabbergasted. "Yes. As if within that display cabinet, five hundred years passed and not just five seconds. But how is that possible?"
"Did anyone sneak oxidizing gas into the display cabinets? Rapid oxidation can cause wood to age swiftly," the head of security suggested grimly.
The manager's face changed. He ordered, "Go and check on the other items!"
None of the other items on display were damaged. This made the manager and the others quite relieved.
Someone noticed the changes to the porcelain bowl, chronometer and the silver statue. "They look older than they did before."
All the security staff began escorting the crowd out one by one. They obviously thought that someone in the crowd caused the trouble.
But everyone present was either rich or powerful. With no concrete evidence that
someone had done it, the auction company did not dare detain them and could
only escort them out in order to prevent further damage to any items.
Li Du walked out. He was still pondering what the manager and the old man had said; the items had aged.
Could it be that the bug hadn't sucked away the life force of the items, but instead their time?
He was shocked, but this was the most likely hypothesis.
The Playboy and Hans came out too. They were all sent to a different hall. The auction company prepared food and drink for them.
Li Du drank his juice absentmindedly. Li Du saw the manager walk in. He bowed, then apologized that the due to unexpected events, the auction would have to be canceled.
The crowd burst out in complaints. The manager just kept apologizing and the crowd
Li Du got up to leave, then looked over and stared aghast at the bug sitting on his
Instinctively, he asked, "How long have we been out here?"
"Who knows?" Hans replied. "I didn't check the time."
The Playboy smiled. "Twenty-two minutes," he said. "We came out at 10:25. It's
Li Du gave a random excuse. He was amazed. If so, it had been twenty-five or twenty-six minutes since the bug first appeared in the auction hall—and he was only a little tired! Just yesterday, when he'd practiced controlling the bug, he had only managed to let it out for eighteen minutes!
The bug had absorbed the time of the auction pieces, strengthening his control over it. Or, maybe, it had given him more energy.
Leaving the hotel, the Playboy invited them to lunch. Because Li Du was Chinese, he brought them to a Chinese restaurant.
The food-and-beverage industry in Flagstaff was booming. After all, there were quite a few universities supporting its consumer market.
The name of the Chinese restaurant was "Royal Chef." Seeing the name, Li Du gasped. The owner of the restaurant was quite brave to have chosen such a haughty name.
The restaurant's interior design was Chinese. There were many Chinese-themed decorations, such as the porcelain ware, Chinese paintings of landscapes, paintings of ladies in the style of the Song and Tang Dynasties, festive red lanterns and Chinese knots. It would all really fool the average American into believing in the restaurant's authenticity.
They didn't order right away after being seated. The Playboy asked, "That b*stard Andrew has to give a piece of information on a valuable storage auction to you, doesn't he? Has he given it to you yet?"
"Not yet." Hans shrugged. "But we're not in a hurry."
The Playboy pulled out his phone and made a call. "You need to pester him. That guy is infamous for not keeping his word!"
The Playboy tried to provoke Andrew over the phone, but Andrew was very proud. He was unwilling to lose face in front of the Playboy. Andrew just asked Hans to take the call, then told him something.
Hans smiled from ear-to-ear after hanging up. "Thanks, man. Andrew gave me a time and a place. Hopefully, we'll get something good again."