Chapter 35 - Running Into Trouble
“What’s wrong? Do your legs hurt so much that it’s hard to get up?” asked Tang Can when he noticed that Shen Yu had her head down. His eyebrows came together in a frown as he tried to look more closely at her injuries. He was afraid that she had been cut to the bone!
Shen Yu snapped out of her thoughts and managed to squeeze out a thin smile. Although she said she was okay, her forehead was covered in cold sweat and her face was as white as paper. It did not make a convincing sight.
“Hold onto my arm, we’re going to the tree where you can rest a little!” instructed Tang Can after one look at her face. He could see a frazzled look in her eyes, and they did not look like the way they normally looked. However, he was more worried about her injuries and was not able to detect that she was trying to conceal her emotions.
Tang Can helped Shen Yu hobble away from the remains of the building. Shen Yu didn’t seem to have much strength left in her legs, and her feet dragged on the ground as they walked. The tips of her feet were soon covered in dust and dirt. Some dirt from the tips of her toes transferred over onto the photograph that Shen Yu was looking at earlier. It covered the image completely.
The village didn’t have a health clinic or doctor’s office but the townspeople said that a rural doctor lived a few kilometers away. Most of the villagers went to that doctor for more serious ailments. Tang Can looked at Shen Yu’s injuries with a frustrated scowl on his face. He shook his head and decided they had no other choice but to clean her wounds with some alcohol. Neither of them had an easy method of transportation now so it didn’t make sense to travel so far to see a doctor.
As someone who grew up in the countryside, Shen Yu did not consider herself to be a delicate young lady. She smiled gently and reiterated that her injuries were nothing serious; she had only broken a little bit of skin. When she was younger, she had gotten injuries similar to this with no lasting harm done.
Tang Can looked at her with an odd expression on his face, as if he didn’t know how he felt. Blood had oozed profusely out of the scrapes on Shen Yu’s elbows and knees. He couldn’t believe that the young woman in front of him thought that it was not a big deal. However, he knew he was overreacting a bit over skinned knees and elbows. In fact, female soldiers in the armed forces often got similar injuries when they trained. It was common for them to treat and then continue to train, as if nothing had happened.
Although the village branch secretary was not at home, his plump wife was available. She gestured towards the two after finding some alcohol for them to use to disinfect Shen Yu’s injuries.
At this point, Tang Can received a phone call from Commander Jin and Xiao Qiu. Although they were able to bring the injured villager to the hospital, they were unable to come back immediately. They told him that they needed to wait on the status of the victim. Once the injured man’s status was stable, they would be able to come back with the car. Halfway through the phone call, Tang Can could hear the branch secretary hollering at him. He quickly realized that the man wanted him to give the phone to his wife so he could talk to her.
The young officer handed the cell phone over to the middle-aged woman. The lady said something to Tang Can in the local dialect. Later, when Tang Can translated for her, Shen Yu found out that the branch secretary’s wife was commenting on his phone. Apparently the fat lady had said that she had seen cordless phones before and said that as an official’s wife, she also had the opportunity to use modern devices like a cell phone.
Her attempt at trying to convince him that she wasn’t a country bumpkin was in vain because she held the cell phone upside down while trying to talk in it. She raised her voice to a loud volume to speak into it and when she couldn’t hear anything, she hit the phone a couple of times. The branch secretary’s wife then turned towards Tang Can and asked why it was broken. Speechless, Tang Can showed her how to hold the device in the correct position. Only then was the lady able to talk to her husband through the phone.
Evidently the branch secretary had told her to take good care of Tang Can and Shen Yu. After she hung up, she bustled quickly out to the courtyard to where the chickens were kept and gathered some eggs. It was almost lunchtime, and she needed to get the food ready.
Shen Yu sat quietly on the wooden bench and stared at Tang Can, trying to convey her intentions silently to him. She didn’t want their host’s wife to go through too much trouble for them. Unfortunately, her attempt at telepathic communication was not successful. In fact, when the middle-aged woman asked Tang Can to help her catch a chicken, he did so gleefully. Like an eagle spreading out its wings, Tang Can stretched out his arms and chased one of the old hens that the branch secretary raised. Shen Yu mouth dropped open in shock as she watched the odd sight.
When they were finally able to talk in private, Shen Yu accused him of being shameless. This village was poor, and they had spent many days in the company of these people, living off of them like freeloaders. It made her feel uncomfortable taking more from those who had so little.
Tang Can chuckled. “People of the Miao ethnic group are welcoming and full of hospitality. When you enter a village, it is important to follow the local customs. Receiving their good will is also a sign of good manners and respect. I know you feel uncomfortable taking so much from these people. When we leave, we can give them some money to compensate them. That will also be proper behavior!”
Shen Yu smiled and nodded her head.
Before their hostess could pluck the newly slaughtered chicken, a villager hurriedly came in, looking for the branch secretary. Apparently, someone had dug up Song Geng’s grave.
It was a shocking event! Even people who were not a part of the Miao ethnic group would find such an act to be worthy of disgust and hate.
The branch secretary’s wife waddled briskly after the villager who brought the news. Tang Can didn’t have enough time to wash his hands, so he grabbed some dirt and used that to rub the chicken blood off of his hands. He turned back briefly to say, “Wait in the house!” before he ran after them.
After hearing what had happened, Shen Yu could not wait docilely in the house. Her injuries no longer hurt and the events had perplexed her. She chased after Tang Can, her thoughts all in turmoil as she ran towards the village cemetery.
By the time she got there, the cemetery was filled with people. Men, women, and children all grouped up in a small space. Shen Yu squeezed through the mass of people. In the center of all the people was freshly dug up dirt with a red coffin that still looked relatively new peeking through the soil. Around it was an older coffin, its lid was pried up with its grisly contents scattered around. She could see that the newest coffin also had a cloth that peeked out of it. Shen Yu didn’t dare to look more closely at the contents of the coffins. Part of her view was also blocked by other people from where she stood.
Shen Yu remembered what the villagers had said during the funeral. The older coffin had to be the grave of Song Geng’s deceased wife. Tang Can noticed Shen Yu’s presence and moved next to her. Using a hand, he pulled her over to the side, away from the dug up graves.
The expression on his face was dark and ugly with anger, enough to scare people with milder constitutions. Shen Yu thought that the frown between his brows was so prominent that she didn’t think a hot iron would be able to smooth it away.
“It looks like the grave digger wanted to get at Song Geng’s wife’s coffin. Am I right?” she asked. It was the most logical deduction she could make after seeing the scene.
Tang Can nodded. Although he liked to play dumb, for some reason he decided to be more frank with her this time. He slowly replied, “Or you could say that the reason why Song Geng died was so that someone could find where his wife was buried!”
Shen Yu quivered and then controlled herself. This was a very important clue! It helped her understand a couple of things. She looked at Tang Can in the eye and said, “So they’re trying to find something in her coffin?"
“From the looks of it, they already found it!” Tang Can replied, nodding his head.
Shocked, Shen Yu asked, “How can you tell?”
Tang Can’s expression was blank. “Just a feeling.”
The young woman twisted her head to look at the graves and then turned back to look at Tang Can. She nodded her head surreptitiously at him.
For an event like grave robbing to occur in this village was something unthinkable to most of the people who lived here. Even though Song Geng didn’t have any living relatives who acknowledged him, it was still a slap in the face for the villagers. Unfortunately, the branch secretary was not here to handle the issue. In his absence, a couple of the more hot-headed villagers started to make trouble and encouraged other people to do so.
Because she thought she had some status in the village, the branch secretary’s wife tried to be authoritative. She hollered at the short-tempered hot heads and ordered them to calm down and not cause trouble before they understood what had truly happened.
At first, the villagers tried to give her some respect because she was a woman and also the wife of the village branch secretary. Later on, the hotheads’ urgings were too hard for some people to resist. The branch secretary's wife was unable to control people from there.
When Tang Can saw the atmosphere turning sour, he immediately called Commander Jin and instructed him to bring the branch secretary back. Afterwards, he grabbed Shen Yu’s hand and quickly took the two of them far away from the cemetery. Shen Yu couldn’t understand the local dialect, but he could. He could hear that the troublemakers were Song Geng’s nephews who only announced their tie to him after his death. They were trying to direct the village sentiment against Shen Yu as revenge for taking away what they considered to be their ‘true inheritance’. They never stopped to think why they got tricked out of it. Had they not tried to be so greedy and grasping, they may not have landed in the place they were today.
However, he who fights and runs away, lives to fight another day! Tang Can understood their circumstances well. The villagers didn’t care about his status or rank. Right now he didn’t have the power to cow them as needed. They needed the branch secretary to handle things like this! The most important thing for them to do was to find a safe place to hide while they waited for their ally to come back.
It was a good thing he had judged the crowd correctly. Right after they left to go back to the village, the angry townspeople rattled out of the cemetery. Unfortunately, there was nowhere in the village for them to hide, so they had to retreat into the fields. The problem was that Shen Yu was injured. It was difficult for her to move quickly. As soon as they ran out of the village, they could hear angry footsteps close behind them.
The patty fields were still a distance from them. In desperation, Tang Can grabbed Shen Yu and jumped into a deep ditch in front of them. Unexpectedly, they had company: there was a little girl cutting grass!Shen Yu recognized that little girl - it was the same child she saw the other day. The older sister of the little boy who had eaten hard boiled eggs from her. The same little girl who viewed her as an enemy. Shen Yu wanted to cry. We’re screwed!
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