Chapter 20 - Small Clues
The knot in his chest loosened when he saw Shen Yu laughing. It felt like a gentle ray of sunlight had touched him and it warmed him up. Tang Can’s smile became more brilliant as he looked at her. “I’m just kidding. Actually, the dog’s real name is Buck. In a couple of days, you’ll be able to see him. If you’d like, you can help me feed him.”
Zhang Fei’s expression suddenly changed. It looked as if she wanted to say something but then thought better of it. The female soldier puffed her cheeks up and sullenly went to hit the nearby brush with a stick.
Mazha stared at his teammate with wide eyes as the female soldier hit the grass viciously. “Did she suddenly lose her marbles? What did the poor grass ever do to her?”
Shen Yu also saw Zhang Fei’s exhibition of temper. The corner of her mouth lifted slightly to form a contemptuous smile. She picked up a piece of fish with her chopsticks and carefully picked out its bones before feeding it to Wheaty. Although she continued to stay quiet, her mood was better than before.
When she finished eating, Tang Can suggested that she should take a nap in the tent. Sleep proved elusive as thoughts whirled around in her head. Chief on her mind were the mysterious, disappearing ore of dog’s head gold and the cryptic map she found in the canteen. She itched to pore over the map more closely but in an effort to keep it secret she could not look at it now. I’ll take a closer peek at it when no one else is around me.
Tang Can brought Shen Yu to the gold mine before it reached noon. Wheaty followed them as if she was Shen Yu’s shadow. Shen Yu’s eyes clouded over with sadness when she looked at the dog. Wheaty came from the gold miners and they would likely make her stay this time.
“We can’t keep things that did not originally belong to us,” Tang Can said with a gentle smile on his face, correctly guessing Shen Yu’s frame of mind. “If you like dogs, when we return back to the army I will give you one!”
Shen Yu’s eyes lit up and nodded her head. A slight smile slowly spread across her face. Tang Can felt his spirits rise when he saw her expression. He raised his head and said, “It’s a beautiful day today!”
She glanced at him, a puzzled look in her eyes, and then looked at the sky. A few dark colored clouds floated through the sky and the sunlight was weak and hazy. It doesn’t seem like a beautiful day to me.
A couple of the gold miners invited them over when they saw them arrive at the mining camp. Before they could be escorted to Old Mr. Yun, a miner working in the river suddenly had cramps and fell into the water with a loud splash. He swore a couple of oaths as he struggled mightily. Unfortunately his cramps had sapped his strength. Just as he was about to be washed downstream, Tang Can swiftly jumped into water and brought the man to shore. The worker was unable to express his gratitude before he involuntarily collapsed on the sand, twisting in agony. Other people watched him in dismay. No one could help him recover faster. Enduring was his only option.
Tang Can’s clothes were completely soaked. On the surface, Old Mr. Yun expressed gratitude towards him for his help but he soon directed the conversation down a different path.
“Us miners have spent too long in the mountains. We don’t bathe and do laundry anymore, so we don’t have any clean clothing for Brother Tang to change into. You should go back now, Brother Tang, before you catch a cold!” The implication was clear. He wanted them to leave the camp again.
Tang Can chucked, ignoring the old man’s obvious hint. “No need to worry, it’s a hot day today! Wet clothes will keep me cool.” Old Mr. Yun could try to push them but Tang Can had thick skin and didn't mind being stubborn from time to time.
Despite her own mixed feelings about Tang Can, Shen Yu was on his side of this argument. Seeing the situation, she had to help him out. She smiled and said, “Sir, it’s best if you give Officer Tang a cup of hot tea soon. I’ll give Mazha a call and have him bring a change of clothes for Officer Tang. With a car, the clothes will get here quickly. Officer Tang did a good deed today. The least you could do is let us stay a bit longer and not expel us at your first convenience!”
Old Mr. Yun chortled. “Girl, your words accuse me of lacking gratitude! Brother Tang saved one of my men and this a debt that I cannot repay. I would never try eject you guys out. I’m just an old geezer with a mind filled with rust. I can’t be as nimble as you, thinking up an idea that quickly.” He stroked his signature, goat-like beard with his hands. “Haha, go make that telephone call to your friends and let them come. It’s almost noon. If you don’t dislike our crude surroundings, how about you guys take a meal with us?”
What an old fox! Shen Yu groaned inwardly but kept a brilliant smile on her face. “Sir, your invitation is too kind. We are overwhelmed with gratitude at the opportunity to dine with a gracious person such as yourself. Even if all you had to serve was sewer water, we would take it as the finest soup!”
Old Mr. Yun laughed in delight and pointed a hand at her. “You little flatterer, you. Such a sweet way with words you have! You’ve gotten me all dizzy with your compliments! Girl, you and your sweet mouth are always welcome here!”
Not only did Old Mr. Yun appreciate Shen Yu’s way with words but Tang Can also felt admiration. She truly had a silver tongue! He had a long history with Old Mr. Yun and this was the first time he saw the old geezer treat someone so warmly!
Old Mr. Yun guided Shen Yu and Tang Can to his tent, with Wheaty following closely behind. The bodyguard that always followed the old man took one look at the dog and said, “How did this dog come back on its own? It’s been missing for a few days, I thought it would had been eaten by the wolves in the mountains by now!”
Shen Yu replied, “Is this the camp’s dog? A few days ago I saw it wandering around our fire. It looked like it was starving so I fed it. Afterwards it circled around a small grave and refused to leave!”
Her casual words hid a hook that would lead her to more information!
The bodyguard stopped and bent over to pat Wheaty’s head. “Is that so? The grave was for that injured black dog. This yellow dog is somewhat of a coward and was often bullied by the other dogs. The black dog helped it and protected it from the others. Who would have thought a dog could be so sentimental?”
Shen Yu grabbed onto this line of conversation. “Was that the black dog that Officer Tang kicked? Now that I think about it, it really was our fault that the poor animal got injured…” Shen Yu stealthily glanced at Tang Can and Old Mr. Yun. Judging that they were out of earshot, she continued, “Although Old Mr. Yun never blamed us, I’m sure he feels heartbroken over that dog!”
He shook his head. “That’s quite unlikely. He wouldn’t feel bad over some dog! Also, that black dog wasn’t originally ours!”
Shen Yu feigned astonishment. “Huh? Was that black dog originally a stray?”
The bodyguard looked at her as if he was reluctant to say more. Finally, he elaborated, “Pretty much!” He walked away from her.
Shen Yu watched the retreating bodyguard’s back with half-lidded eyes. Although she wasn’t able to get all of the details, she had enough to make a couple of deductions. Unfortunately, it left her with other questions that she still could not answer. Why was the canteen with the map hidden in a bird’s nest? And why was that mysterious, disappearing ore of dog’s head gold buried next to the riverbank?
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