Chapter 14 - Puppet

Chapter 14 - Puppet

Despite the change in situation, Zhang Fei didn’t want to leave with their tails tucked behind their legs. She badgered Tang Can. “Are we really just leaving like this? Really leaving?”

Tang Can nodded. “Gold miners have their own ways of doing things. If we don’t leave now, they’ll think we’re trying to steal their gold at night. They may even try to kill us if they get too suspicious!”

“So then what are we supposed to do?” Zhang Fei pursed her lips and glanced back repeatedly at Shen Yu, a hostile look in her eye. Shen Yu could see her cheeks moving, as if she was quietly grinding her teeth.

Fed up, Shen Yu mused that Zhang Fei had to be the most petty person she ever had the misfortune of offending. She makes me feel like I owe her a billion dollars and I’m behind on payments. I want to sew her eyelids shut so she’ll stop staring at me!

“Officer Tang,” interjected Mazha. “Do you mean to say that we should keep our distance from them? But the mountains get cold at night. Not a big deal for guys like us, but I’m afraid for our two ladies over here it’s a different story.”

“Hm,” replied Tang Can. Before he could say anything else, Zhang Fei roared at Mazha. “Eh? What do you mean ‘it’s no big deal for the guys’? Huh?! Are you looking down at me? Did you forget that I’ve been to the snowy mountains with Officer Tang?”

Mazha sneered. “Right, right, right! You’ve been to the snowy mountains! And I’m sure you believe that Deputy Li should feel gratitude for you for the rest of his life! He wouldn’t have had to change occupations early if it wasn’t for you! Too bad he had to get his leg amputated to save it from frostbite.”

Zhang Fei raised a hand and slapped Mazha’s face so hard that it took awhile for him to recover. Shen Yu froze in shock and felt sick to her stomach. Any good opinions she had towards Zhang Fei had immediately evaporated after witnessing her savagery. In her mind, there was no difference between this Zhang Fei and the historical Zhang Fei [1]. Both had volcanic tempers and were rude to boot!

Zhang Fei looked as if she was about to cry, even though she was the instigator. She turned her head away and wiped away tears using the back of her hand.

The conflict between his two insubordinates infuriated Tang Can. His face was black with anger, but he merely glared at Zhang Fei and Mazha, staying silent. Disgusted, Shen Yu mocked silently. What a pushover!

Despite being the injured party in this conflict, Mazha showed no sign of being angry. Before he got slapped by Zhang Fei, he had been muttering unflattering comments underneath his breath. Now he was silent and somber, as if he was the one who committed a wrong.

Shen Yu was an outsider in this group, so she kept herself out of this conflict and stayed a silent spectator to the whole event.

After driving for another half hour, the car finally stopped.

“We’re stopping here tonight,” said Tang Can. “The ladies can sleep in the tent and us guys will sleep in the car.” He ordered Mazha to unpack the tent and find a flat place to erect it up.

Although Shen Yu wanted to help, she knew she was too inexperienced in this area. Instead she decided to take a look around and get familiar with the surroundings. This was her first time up in the mountains and the unfamiliar environment made her nervous. She wanted to make sure she had some idea of where to run should danger arrive at night.

Near the car was a small creek. After Tang Can set up the tent, he ordered Mazha to find some firewood while he set up some crude fishing spears. Using a standard military knife, he cut a couple of branches and formed wooden crosses, using woven rope to bind them together. After sharpening the points, the wooden harpoons were done. Astonished, Shen Yu complimented Tang Can on his skills.

Tang Can smiled in delight. “This is nothing special, just something I picked up from some more experienced soldiers while out in the wilderness.” He waved the spears around to test their heft and then turned towards her. “Come with me to spear some fish!”

“Okay!” Shen Yu followed him with gusto in an attempt to get closer to him. Although she disliked him, she knew she needed to play nice with him. Maybe I can get him to talk more about his plans right now.

Seeing Shen Yu and Tang Can interact, Zhang Fei came over and snatched away a harpoon and ran towards the stream on her own. Shen Yu wanted to avoid her as much as possible, so she told Tang Can she changed her mind and wanted to help Mazha collect firewood. Tang Can smiled and did not object, not wanting to deal with their pettiness.

Mazha had an easygoing personality, so Shen Yu didn’t mind being around him. He was also a chatterbox, and she thought she could pry some information from him. It shouldn’t take too much to make him start talking.

From him she learned that Old Mr. Yun wasn’t as nondescript as he appeared. However, Mazha didn’t quite know his actual status. All he knew was that it was not a good idea to get on his bad side, even the hot-tempered old geezer had to be respectful towards him.

Shen Yu’s head hurt. What hot-tempered old geezer? She really had no idea what he was talking about.

Seeing that she was confused, Mazha looked around first before saying anything. After confirming that Tang Can was not in the area, he whispered, “The old geezer I’m referring to is Officer Tang’s grandpa.”

Shen Yu involuntarily sucked in some air. How could she forget that angry old geezer? Knowing that even he had to be polite towards Old Mr. Yun made her wonder. Just what sort of background did Old Mr. Yun have? Things were getting complicated fast.

She smiled faintly. “Then, how am I connected to Old Mr. Yun? Why did you guys bring me to see him?”

Mazha guffawed. “To interview him! You’re a reporter, isn’t that your job?” He laughed in amusement and then returned to collecting firewood.

Shen Yu inwardly sighed. To think she had thought it would be simple to get information out of him. Since he didn’t want to talk, there was nothing else that she could do. She changed the subject to see if she could get some information on what happened the previous night.

“Huh?” said Mazha, feigning ignorance. “Why are you asking me about this? You don’t remember what happened? I honestly don’t know since only you and Officer Tang went into the hospital room that night.”

She almost snapped. His words had hit a sore point. I was drunk out of my mind that night, no thanks to you! I can’t freaking remember anything.  

Seeing that Mazha had no intention of telling her the truth, Shen Yu changed her tactics. She caught his eyes and mildly said, “I was pretty drunk that night from your alcohol, so my memory’s kind of fuzzy. All I remember is that there was an old man crying and telling me I should spend some quality time with him. The rest is all a blur. I feel quite embarrassed about it so I definitely need to make it up to the old grandpa when we get back.”

“This is really quite difficult!” Mazha replied immediately.

“Oh?” Shen Yu pretended to be shocked. “What so difficult about that?”

He shook his head. “Old Mr. Xu is already in heaven! We can’t really bring him back.”

Shen Yu stared at him until he started squirming. Sheepish, he scratched the back of his head and giggled uncomfortably. She sighed. Looks like Tang Can already prepped this guy beforehand. Guess I can’t trust what he says either.  It was clear that they all kept her deliberately in the dark. To them, she was just a puppet they could push and pull around.

Fine. I can play that game. Just watch, I’ll figure out everything.

  1. A general in the Romance of the Three Kingdoms who was infamous for his bad temper.

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