Chapter 17 - A Map
Her screams of terror immediately woke everyone up. The wolf bolted into the surrounding darkness.
Men generally had faster reaction times and Tang Can was no exception. He leapt out of the car as soon as he heard her scream and grabbed a metal rod. After asking where she saw the wolf run, he immediately took off after it. Mazha was close behind and also held a stick.
Zhang Fei immediately thought to save her own skin. She squirmed out of the tent and into the car. By the time Shen Yu reached the vehicle, the female soldier had already locked the doors. Disgusted by Zhang Fei's petty actions, Shen Yu decided not to waste her breath in asking to be let in. Instead, she went back to the campfire and took out a piece of firewood with a flame burning at its end. If the wolf did decide to attack her, at least she had something to defend herself with.
She stood there, alone, holding her stick like a samurai would hold his sword. Shen Yu thought for sure that the wolf had been scared away for good. A couple moments later, she once again heard the gentle swishing of the grass, telling her that the animal had come back. Who would have thought that it could be so persistent? Before she could react, the yellow creature darted across the fire and picked up another fish from the ground.
She was able to get a closer look at the thief this time. When she realized what it was, she didn’t know whether she should laugh or cry. The animal was a dog, not a wolf! Relieved, she went back to the tent to grab a flashlight. Carrying both the stick and the light, she followed the yellow dog. As someone who grew up on the countryside, Shen Yu knew a thing or two about dogs. Dogs were very loyal to their masters. This dog came back several times to steal food, more food than it needed to feed itself. She had a sneaking suspicion that the dog was bringing back food to its owner. The mountains were treacherous, so it was likely that the dog’s master had met some misfortune and needed some help.
After tailing the dog for a bit, Shen Yu found out that she had guessed correctly. The yellow dog was bringing food to someone else, but it wasn't for a human. It was bringing fish to a dying black dog. At first glance, the other dog seemed familiar. Shen Yu racked her mind swiftly and finally remembered that this black dog was in the pack of dogs that had attacked them earlier. At the time, Tang Can had kicked this dog forcefully in the abdomen.
Dirt covered the black dog’s coat and there was a hole in the ground next to it. She realized what had happened. The mining crew likely thought that this dog was a goner and decided to bury it alive. Afterwards, the yellow dog probably dug his friend out and they both fled the camp.
When she tried to get closer, the yellow dog became more aggressive. She was not fazed. After growing up with all of the villagers' dogs, she knew how to handle them. A truly stray animal would be hard to tame, but these dogs had already been domesticated. Within moments, the yellow dog started wagging its tail at her.
After convincing the yellow dog not to harm her, Shen Yu picked up the injured dog and took them both back to the campsite.
Predictably, Zhang Fei was very upset when Shen Yu came back with two random dogs. The female soldier disliked dogs but the two men regarded them differently. Mazha liked dogs and Tang Can felt guilty about injuring the black one. The dogs were here to stay.
The group stayed at this campsite for a few days. During the day, Tang Can went back to the mining crew to continue their discussions while Mazha and Shen Yu brought the two dogs to the nearby river. They bathed the animals and then sunbathed together. She gave names to the dogs. The yellow one she called “Wheaty” and the black one she called “Blackie”. Zhang Fei mocked her when she heard the names Shen Yu had chosen and said that she was a country bumpkin for giving them such unimaginative names. Unfazed, Shen Yu ignored her.
Wheaty was a female dog and understood how to interact with people. She also understood some basic commands. After becoming comfortable around Shen Yu, Wheaty followed her everywhere and became her little shadow.
On the other hand, things were not going well for Blackie. Although Shen Yu had fed Blackie some antibiotics from their medicinal supplies, the black dog’s injuries were not healing. Mazha had even went into the mountains to pick some medicinal herbs for the dog. Finally, he turned towards Shen Yu and said, “Blackie’s not going to survive. His injuries are just too severe!”
Tears dripped down Shen Yu’s face. Although Blackie had gotten injured by Tang Can for trying to attack them, she genuinely liked both of the dogs after getting to know them. She sobbed and hugged Blackie close to her. In her lap, Blackie blinked his eyes slowly and licked her hand, as if he understood her feelings.
Irritated by the scene, Zhang Fei yelled at Shen Yu for crying over a dumb dog.
That evening, Shen Yu kept a close watch over Blackie. Both Mazha and Tang Can felt bad and searched for ways to cheer her up. Mazha pulled a bunch of long grasses and used them to weave a nest for the dog. Tang Can grabbed some cushions for Shen Yu to lay on while she kpet vigil. He even built up the fire to warm the air and sat next to her for a bit.
Zhang Fei turned green with envy when she saw how Tang Can treated Shen Yu. She muttered incessantly under her breath and, at first, tried to stick close to the young officer. After the mosquitos came out and proved to be too much of nuisance, she finally went into the tent for the night.
Shen Yu fell asleep in daze, exhausted after the long day. After an indeterminate amount of time passed, she woke up when she noticed something was pulling at her. She opened her eyes and saw that Blackie was standing up and wagging his tail at her. Ecstatic, Shen Yu hugged him, “Blackie! You’re feeling better!”
Blackie sniffed and licked her face before holding the edge of her pants in his mouth, as if he wanted to take Shen Yu somewhere. Flushed with happiness, Shen Yu felt as if her first born child had gotten over a dangerous fever. She was in the mood to do whatever Blackie wanted, so she followed his lead and walked towards the river.
The human and the dog followed the river upstream. Above them, the full moon shined brightly. Based off that, Shen Yu estimated that it must be the 15th or 16th day of the month based on the lunar calendar. The further they walked, the narrower the stream became. The riverbank slowly became more sandy. Finally, Blackie stopped at a place by the river. In front of them was a ditch and next to the stream was a tall, dried up tree. Blackie went up to the tree and started barking incessantly. When Shen Yu looked up, she saw a bird’s nest on one of the branches.
“What’s wrong, Blackie?” Shen Yu pet his head, trying to figure out why he continued to bark. Blackie dragged her leg, lead her to the tree, and continued to bark at nest. After thinking for a bit, she finally laughed. She stroked his head again and said, “You little glutton, you want to eat some bird eggs? Am I right? You want me to go up the tree and get some for you, right?” As she gestured at the tree, Blackie licked her hand as if in encouragement. His whole demeanor seemed to show he was looking forward to the contents of the nest.
She rolled up her sleeves. “Getting some eggs are a piece of cake! As long as Blackie is feeling well, I can get you anything you want to eat!” She started to climb up the tree. Anyone who grew up in the countryside knew how to climb up a tree, and she was no exception. It didn’t take much effort for her to shimmy up to where the bird’s nest was located. Unfortunately, nothing was in the nest. Disappointed that she couldn’t get something for Blackie to eat, she came back down empty handed. When Blackie saw that there was nothing in her hands, he started to bark furiously again, as if he wanted to go up the tree. Shen Yu had no choice but to go back up the tree and then bring the empty nest down to show the dog.
When she brought the nest to the ground, Blackie tore at it fervently, ripping the nest apart. Dumbfounded, Shen Yu stared at the animal. I knew humans liked to throw things around when they got mad, who knew dogs were the same?
Unexpectedly, when Blackie tore the nest apart, an old military canteen flew out. Shen Yu almost burst out laughing when she saw the canteen. Guess these mountain birds are keeping up with the times to hide a canteen in their nest. She soon came back to reality and laughed at her own folly. It was more likely that a human had found the nest and then hid the canteen in the nest. Shen Yu glanced at Blackie, a complicated look in her eyes. She noticed that the dog looked at the canteen steadily and realized that this was object that Blackie was looking for. She shook it and it clinked. There was something in it. After prying at the opening for a good amount of time, Shen Yu finally got the rusted canteen mouth open. An object fell out. Using the moonlight, she took a closer look at it.
It was a map!
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