Chapter 23 - A Misunderstanding
Tang Can looked her in the eye and then shook his head. “Gold miners do not have any ties of affection with anyone and are a cold-blooded group. Even blood-related brothers wouldn’t hesitate to kill each other for gold. We are outsiders. If we blindly interfere with their rules and regulations, they will turn on us. The consequences will be a burden we cannot bear to have.”
Shen Yu felt as if a ton of rocks had been sunk into the depths of her heart. She couldn’t believe he refused to help. The army green of his uniform was now a thorn in her eye. Her thoughts were jumbled and she felt sick to her stomach.
There was nothing more for her to say. She stayed silent for the rest of their sojourn at the camp.
In the evening, Old Mr. Yun invited them to stay to eat dinner. Just as they were all about to start, Mazha suddenly had stomach pains. Tang Can snapped at the soldier and ordered him to conduct his business farther from the group, in order to not spoil everyone else’s appetite.
Mazha agreed to this condition and swiftly left. In the darkness, it was hard to see where he ended up going.
A few minutes went by and Mazha came back to the group. Old Mr. Yun chuckled and told him to grab some food and start eating.
Although Shen Yu ate without much appetite, that did not dampen the spirits of the others. Old Mr. Yun and Tang Can were both in a good mood. In their voices, Shen Yu could hear that they seemed to finally come to a tacit understanding. For some reason, the old geezer kept mentioning something about “Changsha city”.
After they finished eating, Old Mr. Yun predictably kicked them out of the camp unceremoniously. The only difference this time was that before they left, Old Mr. Yun and Tang Can hugged each other, as if they felt some emotion at parting.
Shen Yu had no interest in trying to figure out their true intentions. She looked in the direction where Lao Li was being tied up and felt another pang in her heart. His punishment was as good as a death sentence. It was hard for her to believe that anyone would still be alive after seven days with no food or water. The severity of the punishment did not fit his crime. All he did was try to steal some gold for his own use. He never physically harmed another person. To kill him for the crime of greed was much too cruel.
In the car, Shen Yu held Wheaty in her arms and continued to stay silent. Mazha sat next to her in the back of the car and tried to make conversation. She barely interacted with him and didn’t say a word in return.
After the car traveled for a good distance, Mazha finally opened his mouth and said, “Don’t worry, Reporter Shen! Lao Li will definitely survive his punishment!”
Shen Yu laughed icily. He was trying to pull the wool over her eyes. It would be hard to convince her a person could still be alive after seven days with no food or drink. Too laughable.
After seeing she had misinterpreted his intentions, Mazha hastily added, “I didn’t really have diarrhea before we ate dinner. I was using it as an excuse to go to the little grove where OLao ld Li was tied.”
She sat up stick straight. “Did you let him loose?”
Mazha shook his head. “Nope.”
Shen Yu almost exploded in fury and managed to stop herself from cursing him to the moon. She glared at him venomously. Is he trying to play with me? Does he find it funny to joke about something like this?
Tang Can tried to pick up this line of conversation and said one word before Shen Yu interrupted.
She snarled, “Pay attention to the road and keep your nose out of this!” Thoroughly scolded, the young officer stopped talking.
“You’re a f*cking idiot!” snapped Zhang Fei who was sitting in the front passenger seat. Had it been any other time, Shen Yu would have ignored the female soldier. However, this time her temper had gotten the better of her so she didn’t hesitate to meet this conflict head on. Shen Yu accused Zhang Fei of being an arrogant, cold-blooded person with no humanity left in her. She also mocked the female soldier for being a peacock with an upcocked tail: all flash and no substance.
Shen Yu’s agitated state of mind transferred to Wheaty, who also became irritable. When Zhang Fei tried to retort back, the yellow colored dog started barking fiercely at the soldier. Scared that the dog would try to bite her, Zhang Fei quickly backed down. The atmosphere in the car momentarily became chaotic and stifling.
Shen Yu’s temper was at the tipping point. In a pique of anger, she demanded Tang Can pull the car over so she could get out. If he didn’t stop the car, she threatened to jump out while it was still moving.
“Why are you making such a fuss?” asked Mazha, his head spinning from what just happened. He could feel a splitting headache forming underneath his skull. He reached out to grab onto Shen Yu but she quickly slapped his hand away.
After the car pulled over and stopped, Shen Yu immediately jumped out of the car. Tang Can also came out. He followed her, wanting to explain the situation to her.
When Zhang Fei saw her commanding officer leave, she also wanted to follow them. The female soldier derided Shen Yu for acting like a crazy b*tch.
Mazha grabbed onto Zhang Fei. “What do you think you’ll add to their conversation?” he asked as he kept on iron grip on her. Try as she might, she couldn’t shake free of him.
They struggled, one trying to break free, the other trying to hold on. By the time she finally managed to slip out of Mazha’s grasp, it was too late. It was dark outside and she couldn’t see any trace of Shen Yu or Tang Can. Frustrated,, Zhang Fei stamped her feet on the ground and hollered at Mazha, threatening to peel his skin off for hindering her.
At about the same time Zhang Fei was throwing a tantrum, Tang Can had caught up to Shen Yu. She had been running in a flat out sprint away from the car but her speed was not enough to shake him off. Tang Can was not even panting hard as he lightly ran over to her. He even said that in the future she needed to toughen up more. As someone who now wore a military uniform, it was important to keep in shape and not make the army lose face.
Shen Yu wanted to spit blood in fury. She screamed at him, accusing him of being a cold-blooded, ruthless coward. Tang Can stood there and took her abuse, listening obediently. When she finally ran out of steam, he slowly resumed the conversation.
“Believe me, Lao Li really won’t come to any harm. Mazha left him a sharp dagger before dinner. He was instructed to wait until it got dark before trying to escape. Ideally he would cut himself loose when all of the other miners were sleeping and then escape from there.”
Shen Yu didn’t know if she could believe him but she could feel her anger slowly slipping away.
Seeing that she had no intention in breaking the silence, Tang Can continued to explain. “Actually, Old Mr. Yun is not as callous as you think he is. It’s just that there were other people around so he had to act this way and follow their established rules to keep order within the group. The truth is he actually deliberately gave us the opportunity to help Lao Li escape. Why else would he invite us to eat dinner with them? Furthermore, he didn’t even have anyone tail Mazha when he had to go to the bathroom. By letting us help Lao Li he achieves two objectives. The first is that he keeps a working relationship with us. The second is that he keeps his reputation with the miners. Since we’re the ones who set Lao Li free, the miners can’t complain about Old Mr. Yun becoming too soft.”
After his explanation, Shen Yu no longer felt mad or betrayed. In fact, she started to feel remorseful. She acted before she understood the whole situation, and that was a potentially dangerous thing to do. She softly said to Tang Can, “I’m sorry. I didn’t know any of this!”
Tang Can laughed gently. She felt that it was too bad that it was too dark for her to see his smile. She knew that whenever he smiled, his whole face would light up in delight. It made his good-looking face turn into a face that was extraordinarily handsome.
“Are you feeling better now after you let off some steam? If you are, let’s go back now!” he suggested in a considerate voice. It elicited warm feelings inside Shen Yu.
Shen Yu made a noise in assent. After finding out that Tang Can was not as cold and unfeeling as she had thought, her mood had improved considerably. It was as if the warm sun had finally triumphed over a dark storm.
They turned back to go back to the car. Zhang Fei heard their footsteps when they got closer and ran over to meet them. Despite their earlier alteracation, Zhang Fei did not spout any profanities and kept her manners polite. Maybe it was because the female soldier was still scared of Wheaty.
The four of them went back into the car to get back on the road. After traveling a bit, they finally arrived back to their usual campsite in the valley.
Before they went to bed, Tang Can informed Shen Yu that the plan was to set out when it hit dawn the next morning. They were going back to Changsha.
Shen Yu felt happy at the thought. They had already spent several days in the mountains and she was tired of being a walking mosquito buffet. The novelty of camping in the rough wilderness had already worn thin and she didn’t want to sleep in a tent anymore. Furthermore, it had been a hot couple of days and she missed being able to take a shower to clean herself. She thought she could smell a bad odor coming off of herself. It was an experience she could have done without.
Shen Yu had a difficult time trying to fall asleep that night, possibly from the excitement of returning to civilization. After tossing and turning fruitlessly, she finally sat up in the tent and stared off into space. There were a couple of mesh windows in the tent and she used them to gaze at the night sky. The stars twinkled at night and Shen Yu started to think about her parents back at home.
Time passed and she started to feel tired enough to try going to sleep again. Just as she was about to hunker down, she heard a weird noise. It sounded like it came from Wheaty. Alert and nervous, she looked out the tent. She could vaguely see a human figure in the darkness wrestling with the dog. She tried to arouse Zhang Fei quickly as she grabbed a flashlight and rushed out the tent.
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