“This stone tablet…” Chen Quan’s countenance gradually grew serious as he stood up from his seat to get a better view of the object. It was slightly blue and resembled stone used for pavement, with a rough surface covered with scratch marks.
The stone tablet depicted three different scenes. The panel on top portrayed a scene of a giant monkey roaring while beating its own chest with a man standing on a sword beneath its feet. The panel below showed a beast resembling a lion possessing wings. Lastly, the panel on the right was in illustration of a phoenix.
Chen Quan had no doubt that just like many stone tablets he had seen before, this artifact was retelling a legendary tale. However, what perplexed Chen Quan was the aging of the object; although there was nothing noteworthy about the material, he deduced that the tablet itself had been sculpted over ten thousand years ago.
Chen Quan squatted down and examined the back and the edges of the tablet meticulously. ‘These cuts… they’re fresh? Was this taken off a wall?’
“Professor Chen… This…” Lao Dai finally could not quell his curiosity. Seeing Chen Quan scrutinize the tablet so painstakingly made him extremely nervous while also giving him a sense of assurance about the accuracy of the appraisal.
“I know that I’m not supposed to ask you about the origins of this, but…” Chen Quan wrapped the black cloth around the artifact. Studying the slate with such concentration was enough to make him sweat.
“We bought this for three million yuan in the black market. They said that it was some kind of precious artifact. What do you think?” Wang Youfa revealed the truth without a second thought.
‘The black market? This tablet… It precedes human civilization! This has the power to rewrite history!’ Chen Quan pondered about the ramifications of the discovery as he sat down.
“Professor Chen…” Lao Dai waited impatiently for a verdict, as he had been the subject of ridicule by his friends for splurging on the artifact.
Chen Quan reached out for the tea kettle, only to find it empty.
“More tea please!” Wang Youfa immediately cried out.
“Right away!” Chen Jiawang picked up the heating kettle and ran toward the table.
“You can put the kettle here. We’ll take care of it.” Wang Youfa dismissed Chen Jiawang immediately, afraid that the latter would disturb Chen Quan.
Although Chen Jiawang was getting a little curious about the artifact, he shrugged his shoulders and thought that it was good that he was spared the trouble.
“There’s nothing special about the material. However, its age…” Chen Quan said as he made himself comfortable on the sofa.
“Yes. You’re right professor Chen, about that…”
“I don’t think that I can tell for sure with my eyes. I have a friend who works at a geological institute. How about we go over there and use their equipment?” Chen Quan proposed after a moment of pondering.
If it was just any other item, Chen Quan would have not even bothered with such a rigorous measure. He would have just made up some kind of explanation, but the impossible assessment he had made on the stone tablet reminded him of his childhood dream of being an archaeologist, and he knew just how much the discovery could change the world.
“Great!” Wang Youfa was ecstatic at seeing Chen Quan’s dedication to the appraisal.
“Even you can’t tell how old this is? Professor Chen?” Lao Dai frowned.
“This tablet is a little different from other kinds of artifacts, you’ll forgive me, but I don’t think that I can come up with an accurate appraisal with only my eyes,” Chen Quan said.
“How about we go to the place then? Where else are you going to find an opportunity like that?” Wang Youfa pulled on Lao Dai’s shirt.
“Oh?” Lao Dai’s eyes lit up as it finally dawned upon him that Chen Quan’s countenance furthered the possibility of the slate being of immeasurable value.
“Alright, so when would it be a good time to go?” Lao Dai’s face was brimming with excitement as he thought about the treasure the stone tablet could turn out to be.
“Now.” Chen Quan stood up from the sofa.
“Now?” Lao Dai glanced at his watch: it was almost eleven o’clock.
“Is that okay with you?’
“Of course.” Lao Dai looked at his friend gratefully as he stood up, thinking that Chen Quan was paying him the favor due to Wang Youfa. Only he did not know that Chen Quan was even more eager than him to uncover the truth.
The party of three left after leaving some money, and Chen Jiawang began cleaning up their table.
‘Wow… These rich people really do have time to spare in their lives…’ Chen Jiawang thought as he returned to the counter. As he recalled the stone tablet, he began scribbling around with a pencil, only to realize that he remembered every detail about the scenes depicted on the artifact.
‘Do I have some kind of hidden talent for drawing?’ Chen Jiawang was unaware that after becoming a guardian, both his dexterity and perception were greatly improved, to the point where he was able to remember most things despite seeing them only once. Naturally, reproducing a drawing as unpolished as the one on the stone tablet became an easy task.
"I knew that I had it in me!” Chen Jiawang smiled as he picked up another sheet of paper and began drawing the vase near the entrance.
* * *
“As far as I’m aware, there’s no cure for this.”
“So it’s hopeless…” Zhou Jiazheng’s countenance sank despite having expected the obvious. Owing to Lin Lu’s tales, he had full trust in Li Yiming’s assessment of his condition.
“Jiazheng!” Lin Lu entered the containment room wearing a hazmat suit. Zhou Jiazheng did not answer her call and looked away.
“Jiazheng!” Lin Lu rushed forward and wrapped her arms around her fiance. Zhou Jiazheng was able to feel Lin Lu’s arms tremble through the thick layer of protective material.
“Is there really nothing you can do?” Lin Lu turned around and said.
Seeing someone as tough as Lin Lu’s tear up made Li Yiming’s chest tighten. Her love for her fiance reminded him of Liu Meng, but alas, there was very little he could do.
“We’ll be able to figure something out. I’m in a stable condition right now. Aside from not being to go under the sun, I’m the same as before.” Zhou Jiazheng squeezed out a smile to appease Lin Lu’s worries.
“Punch me with all of your strength.” Li Yiming sighed and presented his palm to Zhou Jiazheng.
Zhou Jiazheng clenched his fist and threw a punch. Being under the impression that his strength had increased vastly after being infected by the virus, he chose to keep some strength in reserve to avoid hurting Li Yiming.
A low thud was heard as Li Yiming caught the blow without moving back an inch.
“I thought his physical abilities improved?” Lin Lu looked at her fiance worriedly, thinking that he had grown weak.
Zhou Jiazheng was also baffled at seeing what little effect his blow had on Li Yiming. If Li Yiming was an ordinary man, he would have been sent flying back, and yet he simply stood there and absorbed the attack as if it was nothing.
“How about you give it a shot over there?” Li Yiming pointed at the glass window.
Zhou Jiazheng approached the window, took a deep breath, and gave it his everything.
Zhou Jiazheng punched right through the window, his fist stained with blood.
“What?” Lin Lu could not believe her eyes — the window was made with bulletproof glass.
“I don’t know if the virus will continue to mutate, but I’m worried about this,” Li Yiming said as he looked at the shattered glass.
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