Flagstaff was a small town in the southwestern United States. It was located in Northern Arizona, near the edge of the Colorado Plateau. The City of Las Vegas was not far to the west of Flagstaff, while the famous Grand Canyon was nearby to the east.
Most Chinese people were probably quite familiar with many parts of the United States; Arizona, the Grand Canyon, and Las Vegas, but few knew about Flagstaff, the city in between Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon.
Half a year ago, Li Du was like most Chinese people and had not heard of Flagstaff. That changed when he moved there for his studies.
Flagstaff was not well-known in either China nor America, but it did have several good universities such as Northern Arizona University and CollegeAmerica at Flagstaff.
The school that Li Du came to study at was called National College at Flagstaff. The name of the school was only a single word away from the name "CollegeAmerica in Flagstaff," but the quality of education was vastly different.
CollegeAmerica at Flagstaff was an affiliated campus of CollegeAmerica with a great reputation as a privately funded University, and it offered undergraduates bachelor's and master's curriculums.
As for National College at Flagstaff? It was really just a diploma mill that Li Du was tricked into attending for his master's degree.
Barely half a year after he paid his tuition for the first semester, the school was closed for an investigation. By then, the board members of the school and the employees in the admissions office had been long gone and left behind a bunch of international students who were summarily driven out of the campus by the police.
Li Du was one of the lucky few who had his own place to stay. The dorm was too crowded and chaotic, and in order to focus on studying, Li Du rented out a room in an apartment and lived off campus instead. Therefore, Li Du at least still had a place to stay while many of his classmates who had paid for on-campus accommodations were drifting on the streets.
Other than the housing situation, however, Li Du was not much better off than his schoolmates. It was already the end of January, and his rent was due. If he could not pay it in time, he would have to accept his fate on the streets.
The problem was that he had no money!
He could borrow some from his friends and family back in China if he was still a student studying abroad. But now that the school was closed for the investigation, his plan to get a master's degree was ruined, and he was too ashamed to ask for money from his parents. He also couldn't borrow money from his friends. No, Li Du's pride prevented him from doing so.
As he sat in front of the small house with a frown on his face, the pine doors behind him were pushed open by a blonde girl. "Hey Li, you're here!"
This girl was his landlord, Hannah Fox. The house belonged to both Hannah and her brother, Hans Fox. They inherited it from their parents, who both passed away in a car crash.
Hans always claimed that he was "busy with big business," and only came back once in a blue moon, so Hannah rented out the open room for some extra income.
Upon hearing her greeting, Li Du got up and replied, "Oh, yes, Hannah. What's up?"
The girl shrugged as she smiled, displaying a dimple on her beautiful face. "I was just cleaning up the fridge earlier and found these bottles of beer. They were definitely left behind by Hans. I remembered that you enjoy wheat beer, so how about finishing it?"
In her hands were half a dozen beer bottles in their common cardboard packaging, the Budweiser logo on the side.
Li Du caught sight of the beer and responded to Hannah with a grin. There was only a small fridge in the apartment, which he used daily, and there had been no beer in it earlier.
Also, knowing Hans's obsession with alcohol, nothing would be left over if there was beer in the fridge.
A better guess was that Hannah got this beer for Li Du to cheer him up. Several times since the school was closed for investigation Hannah had tried to comfort him. Li Du was touched by her kindness.
The only thing was, Hannah's consolation was quite simple; either she gave him some inspirational books, or she got him some beer.
This American girl had previously learned a bit of Chinese culture, or more specifically, the saying that "one night of drinking can resolve a thousand worries." From this saying, she came to the conclusion that Chinese people would let go of all their worries after a night of drinking. This was why she bought Li Du beer when she felt he was upset.
Li Du accepted the beer, as he knew that in American culture there were some gifts that could not be refused; otherwise, it would be a sign of refusing friendship. Li Du really cherished his friendship with Hannah, and he knew that one day he would have to repay Hannah for all her kindness.
After Li Du took the six pack of beer, Hannah smiled and walked away. As she was leaving, she said, "There are many problems in life, but it is still beautiful nonetheless."
After repeating this saying a few times, Li Du reached for a bottle of beer. Just as he took one out, the box tipped over, and an amber-like crystal fell out. It dropped onto the ground, making a crack! when it hit.
This crystal was about the size of his thumb, and as it struck the ground relatively hard, a few cracks could be seen on its surface.
The reason why Li Du thought it a piece of amber was because the crystal was tinged with yellow, and contained a small creature inside. At first glance, this crystal looked very similar to the amber he had seen in class back in the sixth grade.
As he began reminiscing about his past, Li Du remembered that his teacher had mentioned that amber pieces with small insects trapped inside were very valuable. It was unfortunate that this amber was damaged already. What a pity! He thought that it could possibly be worth as much as two months of his living cost.
The crystal had hit the ground quite hard, and when he picked it up, it fell apart and revealed the purple bug inside.
The bug had the shape of a grasshopper, about two centimeters long. It had an eccentric outer appearance and had compound eyes just like a grasshopper. There were only two legs with strange marks under its belly and no wings on its back. It looked to be quite clumsy.
As Li Du had never seen this kind of insect before, he picked it up to take a better look.
Just at this moment, something unbelievable happened: the bug's claws twitched, and it seemingly had its vitality restored as it struggled to break free from his fingers.
He did not have time to process what was happening when the little bug jumped on his hand and lowered its head. And, just like that, it slowly dove into his palm!
Seeing this, Li Du became so terrified that he almost peed in his pants!
An amber-encased insect resurrecting was already frightening enough, but this bug had taken it a step further by driving itself into his skin—just like what happened in the movie Alien—leaving behind a tattoo-like mark.
Letting out a scream, he stumbled into the house while shouting, "Hannah, call nine-one-one, please! Help, a bug just dug itself into my hand!"
His scream sounded so miserable and scared that Hannah came out from her room with a terrified look on her face. "What? What bug?"
Li Du opened his hand and said, "This one! This bug in my palm!"
Hannah's expression immediately changed to bewilderment. "The bug in your palm? What bug in your palm?"
Not only was there a bug, but that bug was even wiggling! It seemed unwilling to remain calm after getting into Li Du's palm. Now it was trying to get out again, leaving half of its body poking out of his skin.
Li Du pointed to the half-shown bug and mumbled in terror, "This one, this purple bug! Can't you see it?"
Hannah's expression immediately turned even more terrified than Li Du's. Then she started to slowly back away, and said, "Li, I know that it is hard for you to accept the closing of your school, but I've always thought of you as a warrior, a very tough individual…"
Li Du instantly interrupted her: "I know what you mean, you think I've lost my mind! But Hannah, I haven't! It's just that my school was closed, that wouldn't cause me to go crazy…
"Sh*t, it came out again!"
Just as he was shouting, the bug slowly crawled out of his skin, jumped onto the floor, stood up on its legs, and began to walk on the ground like a human.
Thankfully, it landed next to a drain. Without paying much attention to where it was going, it fell down the drain.
Li Du watched it fall and felt a wave of relief. "Oh good, the bug fell down the drain."
Subconsciously, however, a thought popped into Li Du's mind: What's in a drain? Wastewater that can quickly drown the bug?
However, just as he thought of this, an even more unbelievable event occurred.