Chapter 16 - Wolves
“Codename?” asked Shen Yu suspiciously.
Just as Tang Can was about to reply, a mournful howl echoed through the night, full of desperation. It came from the distance and sounded like it could be from a human or a wolf. Shen Yu swore in fright and even Mazha cursed after being startled into falling off the rock he was sitting on. Zhang Fei was even more scared. She screamed in terror and immediately ran towards Tang Can to hide her face in his chest.
Although Tang Can was also startled, he recovered quickly. “Don’t be scared. This is a warning signal used by the miners. Sound travels far in these valleys and it’s not uncommon for you to hear things that occur miles away.” He tried to stand up and clearly wanted to push Zhang Fei out of his arms. Zhang Fei refused to leave him and even grabbed onto his arm, making it hard for him to stand up straight. All throughout this, his dark eyes had never left Shen Yu and they glinted in the firelight.
Shen Yu didn’t pay much attention towards him. After being scared half to death, she still felt uneasy despite his explanation. Her heart pounded furiously.
Mazha finally recovered from his fright and picked himself up from the ground. He cursed a few profanities and then said, “These people are like ghosts! More scary than wolves! I could feel my soul leaving my body after hearing that sound!”
Zhang Fei snorted and mocked him. “I thought you’ve killed wolves with your bare hands? Why are you so scared now? Looks like to me you were about to piss yourself!”
Mazha choked in anger. “You tomboy! Why is your tongue so sharp?”
Seeing that his two subordinates were about to start bickering again, Tang Can preemptively told them to cut it out and focus on their duties. He then said, “I think the sounds are coming from Old Mr. Yun’s place, and I'm not sure what’s going on. Come with, Mazha, and we’ll go take a look. Zhang Fei, stay here and protect Shen Yu!” The two men then went to the trunk of the car and grabbed some supplies. Using flashlights to light the way, they set off quickly in the direction of the mines.
Zhang Fei clearly hated the idea of staying behind with Shen Yu. She muttered nonstop, whining about being stuck with a deadweight. After a brief moment, she suddenly stood up. “Be a good girl and stay here. I’m going to go help them!” She ran off quickly to catch up to the two men.
After being abandoned by everyone, Shen Yu was at a loss at what to do. The surroundings were pitch-black and an uncomfortable feeling crept up on her. Nervousness settled in, causing the ends of her hair to stand up.
She could no longer stay there on her own. I’m in the only well lit area in this creepy valley. If a bad guy comes, I’m toast! Shen Yu decided that the car would be a better place for her to sit out. She hesitated when another thought struck her. If she went into the car, she couldn’t keep an eye on the fire. If the fire went out, wild animals would be more likely to cross this area.
After thinking quickly, she added more firewood to the campfire. There were still fish roasting over the fire. Afraid that the the fire would get too hot and scorch the fish with the extra fuel, she decided to take the fish off the fire. As she took the roasting fish off, one of the fish slid off its wooden stake onto the ground with a thump. She felt guilt at the thought of wasting food, so she bent down to pick it up. A hairy thing darted over and grabbed the dropped fish. Shen Yu screeched in terror and bolted away, dropping the rest of the fish in her hands onto the ground. She tripped over something in her effort to get away and fell heavily. Stars erupted in her eyes.
Frightened out of her wits, Shen Yu wondered if this was the end of her. Is that thing going to eat me? Is this the way I’m going to die?
Nothing came over as she slowly picked herself up. Gathering her courage, she looked behind her. The campfire gave off plenty of light but she couldn't detect anything. Did I hallucinate everything? Suddenly, in the distance, she heard the sounds of footsteps. Thinking it was the rest of the group, she felt better and walked back to the fire. The fish that she had dropped earlier was no longer there but the other fish still were, albeit inedible after getting a nice coat of dirt. It didn’t really matter at this point. Shen Yu looked around in the surrounding grass to find clues. She wasn’t sure exactly what she had encountered but she wanted to find out.
“Shen Yu? Shen Yu?” called someone in the distance. She turned around and saw that Tang Can was the first to come back. Abandoning her search, she explained to him the events that had just occured.
Tang Can felt chills run down his back when he heard her story. By the time Mazha and Zhang Fei came back, he was furious. He scolded Zhang Fei for not following orders and lacking discipline. As punishment, he decided that she should leave the group and go back to where the rest of the soldiers were stationed.
After being reprimanded, Zhang Fei held her head in hands and crouched on the ground, wailing like a baby. Shen Yu felt she was quite pitiful and tried to comfort her. Unfortunately, the female soldier did not appreciate her efforts and lashed out at Shen Yu, calling her a two-faced hypocrite.
Mazha cajoled Tang Can. “Officer Tang, don’t let her howl anymore. She’s going to attract all of the ghosts and monsters here soon!”
Tang Can could feel a headache forming. He finally told Zhang Fei that if she was unable to control her emotions, she would have to leave immediately. Faced with an ultimatum, the female soldier instantly stopped crying.
Shen Yu ground her teeth in irritation. She would have expected military women to have more pride! Instead, she got a front row seat to a shameless scene. Who would have thought that sobbing and making a fuss would work on soldiers too? After Zhang Fei’s tantrum, she had no interest in trying to pry information out of Tang Can.
The two men used flashlights to search the area thoroughly. After finding no sign of wild animals, everyone breathed a sigh of relief.
Night had finally settled in, so Tang Can let the two women sleep in the tent while he and Mazha alternated shifts to keep a lookout. Shen Yu tossed and turned and could not find a comfortable area to rest. Finally, she decided that it was useless trying to sleep. She carefully exited the tent. Mazha was by the fire with his head drooping down on his chest. Closer inspection revealed that had fallen asleep. The campsite was peaceful and she could hear the sounds of the insects chirping in a cycle. It felt as if time had temporarily stopped.
Just as she was about to wake Mazha and let him switch the watch with her, she heard activity in the nearby grass. Alarmed, she opened her eyes wide and carefully looked at her surroundings. She spotted a fuzzy yellow object slowly making its way towards the fire. Before she could wake Mazha, the yellow thing had made its way to the leftover fish and Shen Yu could see its mossy green eyes glint in the light.
She screeched, “Is that a wolf?!”
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