"Empress? Is that her model? Yamaha Empress?" A series of questions jumped out from Hans, as Sophie's expression began to excite him.
"No, that's her nickname. Her real model is CFX, Yamaha CFX," corrected Sophie, shaking her head.
"Do you want to go on the truck and try it out?" suggested Li Du.
With a length of almost six feet, the grand piano weighed more than half a ton. Since it would take too much effort to move it on and off, they ended up leaving it in the truck.
"Don't underestimate our little Sophie," Hans said. "She's been playing piano since she was a child. With just a glance, she can tell you this piano's identity."
"It's ok. He was not questioning my ability. Your friend simply saw how much I love this piano, and therefore invited me to give it a try," explained Sophie with a smile.
Li Du really did mean what Sophie said. Just from her eyes, he could see her admiration for this piano. What he did not expect was that Sophie would voice his hidden meaning.
Hans blinked at Li Du and stated, "Buddy, you are attracted to Sophie."
"Hey Fox, stop being weird!" Li Du shouted. "This is only the second time I met Sophie! And it was you who took me here!"
Sophie blankly stared at Hans.
"Don't deny it, I can see how much you like her. Buddy, I support your pursuit of Sophie. Good choice, she is Flagstaff's little princess," Hans continued, encouraging Li Du with a sly smile on his face.
"OK! OK! Can we get back to the topic of the piano? Don't you want to know how much you can sell it for?" Sophie responded, trying to change the subject.
Lured by the talk of money, Hans finally shut his mouth.
"This is a model of Yamaha's grand piano series made with a focus on the ideals of beauty and strength. Beauty is used to describe the richness of her voice, while strength refers to the fullness of her projection."
"You should know, the CFX series is excellent on music demonstration, and even in a large concert hall her voice can be heard among the multitude of instruments during a concert performance." Pausing there, Sophie began to reminisce with closed eyes. "When I was studying at Julliard, I had the opportunity of listening to Maestro Browing's performance of the Diabelli Variations using the CFX. I swear to God, that is truly the pinnacle of music!"
"How much is this piano worth then? You make me feel like it should be worth millions," Hans said.
Sophie chuckled, "How can that be? A new CFX is only worth around a hundred thousand. For a piano to be worth over a million, it would have to be a model from the hand-crafted collection displayed in the Yamaha Music Museum."
"Then how much do you think we could get for this one?" Hans carefully asked.
"Can I take a closer look?" Sophie asked, hesitating slightly. "You know, Hans, appraisal isn't something I'm very good at."
"Of course you can."
Li Du had been watching Sophie's expression the entire time, so as soon as he noticed her hesitation, a wave of dread swept over him.
When Sophie pressed down on the keys, they were met with silence.
Now, even Hans noticed that something was wrong.
"Is the piano broken?" asked Hans with a look of shock.
"No, it's not that she's broken," answered Sophie, lightly biting down on her lips. "She's not what we thought she was. She's only a practice model."
"What?" Hans asked with a look of bewilderment.
"What I mean is that this piano was designed for practice and exhibition. You can use it to decorate, but it can't be played." Sophie shrugged as she let out a sigh of disappointment.
At this news, Hans and Li Du both gasped. They were quite upset—even more upset than when they found out that the massage chair was broken.
Sophie quickly added, "However, this doesn't mean that she is worthless. Even though she is only the practice model, a new one would still cost more than 30,000 dollars. Other than the sound structure, everything else is the same as a real CFX."
"Then how much do you think this can sell for?" Hans asked.
After a moment of consideration, Sophie said, "If I were the buyer, then I'd be willing to pay 20,00 dollars for it."
"How about 19,000 dollars, Sophie? I'll sell it to you with a thousand-dollar discount," Hans excitedly replied.
Sophie was speechless at this offer.
The market for practice pianos was very specialized, including collectors, music schools, and wealthy people who needed internal decoration.
If Li Du were the one to sell it, he probably wouldn't be able to get a fraction of the piano's true value. Hans, however, had a wide network. It only took Hans one more day to contact an insurance company in Flagstaff, and on the third day, they sold the piano.
The final price for the piano was 15,000 dollars. To comfort the two, Sophie intentionally overpriced the estimation. Hans knew that, which was why he had made the joke offer to Sophie.
The drums also sold for a pretty good price. When looking online, Li Du saw that the drums could sell for at least 3,000 dollars. They were able to sell it for 7,200 dollars.
Their trip to Phoenix ended with an income of 22,200 dollars. With that kind of profit, Hans was very satisfied.
Considering that Li Du had eaten an extra 2,000 dollars worth of food at the Mexican restaurant, he was even more content.
Deducting 250 dollars for gas and bribes, they ended with a net income of 21,400 dollars, with Li Du getting about 13,000.
Caressing the tattoo of the little bug, Li Du thought about how fast he had been earning money lately. If he had gained the little bug's ability earlier, then he wouldn't have gone for a Masters degree to begin with.
After splitting their income, Hans took out a form for Li Du to fill out.
With the title of "Association of American Auction Hunters," the form asked for the name, race, address, contact, and other private information.
"The application for the Ten Thousand club."
"What's the Ten Thousand club?" Li Du curiously asked.
"Oh, I forgot that you are still only a beginner," Hans said. "With the way that you normally talk, I've been unconsciously regarding you as a veteran treasure hunter.
"First, let me introduce the Association itself. As the name suggests, this is like unions in other industries. The Ten Thousand Club is the entry level VIP club. Above it is the Hundred Thousand, Million, and the legendary Ten Million club."
"To join this club, a treasure hunter must earn a net profit of ten thousand dollars at an auction, which we achieved this past auction."
"Then do we need to pay any club fees? What sort of benefits do we enjoy? What sort of responsibility must we undertake?" asked Li Du.
"There's a lot of benefits that you can slowly experience yourself," Hans smiled. "As for responsibility, it's the common bullsh*t of assisting fellow treasure hunters when they need it, supporting the club during times of difficulty, and so on."
"Tell me one of the benefits," Li Du pressed.
"Alright, let me give you one example. You know I've been able to take care of the stuff that we win without any hassle. I'm always able to use the right channels to identify the best buyers. These channels were all provided by the club. The club members exchange information, which helps each other dispose of our acquisitions."