Chapter 38 - Having Something to Worry About
Tang Can turned away quickly, embarrassed that he had been staring at her for so long. He told her to rest well and then left the bedroom.
Shen Yu slept fitfully. She wasn’t sure if the glass bits had all been fished out, but her wounds ached the entire night.
The next day, she woke up early. She felt as if she hadn’t slept all night as she stumbled out of her room. Tang Can and the others had been up for a while, and Xiao Qiu walked in from the outside, holding a bag with military issued canteens in it. They were a gift for the branch secretary’s two children.
The branch secretary smiled in pleasure and took the gifts from the young soldier. His wife took an old black hen from their coop and handed it to Tang Can. She said that they should use the chicken, when they had time, to make some chicken soup for Shen Yu. Drinking it would help her heal her wounds.
Shen Yu smiled awkwardly. Per the countryside customs, old hens were used to help women recover strength from the blood lost during their menstrual cycles. The cuts on her hands were just trifling wounds. To use an old hen to help her build up blood for something this trivial made her blush in embarrassment.
The branch secretary and his whole family came out to the village gate to send them off. Before they could leave, Xiao Qiao suddenly exclaimed that he had forgotten something back in the house. When he came back, Shen Yu could see that he was holding a faded, yellowing photo that measured six inches across in his hand.
“Whose photo is this?” Tang Can asked casually. Xiao Qiu flipped the picture over and showed it to the young officer. Craning her head, Shen Yu tried to take a peek at it.
At first, not much happened. Within a couple of minutes, the expression on Shen Yu’s face changed and the color on her face turned yellow and sallow, about the same shade as the photo itself. Shen Yu started to tremble from head to toe, as if there was a strong wind blowing against her body.
Commander Jin replied, a hint of rebuke towards Xiao Qiu in his voice. “This youngster is such a forgetful ball of trouble. Everywhere he goes, he manages to lose something! Hopefully that’s everything you need, Xiao Qiu! I don’t want to hear you complaining you left something here when we’re a thousand leagues away!”
Xiao Qiu scratched his head sheepishly and smiled, “That’s everything, I swear!”
“Then let’s go!” said Commander Jin.
When Shen Yu didn’t immediately move, Tang Can said with a gentle smile on his face, “Let’s follow them, Shen Yu!”
“Oh, sure,” she replied, slightly dazed. With an ugly expression on her face, she followed Commander Jin and Tang Can as they left the village.
They said their final farewells to the branch secretary and the rest of the village. Before they piled into the car, Xiao Qiu handed the old picture over to Commander Jin. The older man sat in the shotgun position, and he carefully placed the photo down.
Shen Yu stared at the photo fixedly, an ugly expression on her face. Her hands and feet were as cold as ice. The picture was the one she was trying to hide earlier, but she wasn’t able to find it the previous night. How did it end up in Xiao Qiu’s hands?
Shen Yu pursed her lips in thought and an odd feeling crept up on her. She turned her head to look at Tang Can quietly for a moment and then said, “It’s a little stuffy in here.” She opened the window next to her and smiled at Commander Jin. “Whose picture is it? Can I take a look at it?”
Without any hesitation, the older man handed the photo over to her. He smiled gently, “Don’t be too startled! The picture shows someone who’s recently died! In fact, it’s a photo of old Song Geng!”
Shen Yu was in the process of taking the picture from Commander Jin when she heard him explain the picture’s origins. A frightened and shocked expression crossed her face and her hand shook. The photo slipped out of her grasp and flew out of the car window.
“Oh no!” she exclaimed. “The picture flew out! Stop the car!”
Commander Jin ordered Xiao Qiu to disregard the lost picture and to continued driving. “Don’t worry about it, Shen Yu. It doesn’t matter that we lost the photo. We just wanted to bring it to Old Mr. Yun and let him look at it, to see if we found the right person. But since the person in question is deceased, does it really matter if Song Geng was the person he was looking for? It’s not like we can bring him back from the dead.”
“Ah…” said Shen Yu as she laughed dryly. There was nothing she could say to that statement.
As their journey progressed, Shen Yu participated in a conversation with Commander Jin and the others. However, it was blatantly obvious to anyone paying attention that there was something bothering her.
Tang Can observed Shen Yu closely. When she finally became tired and closed her eyes to rest, Tang Can eyes met Commander Jin’s for a second. Commander Jin then flicked his gaze over to Shen Yu and smiled briefly. He turned his head back to the front of the car and spoke to Xiao Qiu, “Drive more smoothly. We don’t want to jostle Reporter Shen too much.”
“Okie dokie! I got it!” replied Xiao Qiu brightly, his eyes curving up with amusement.
Shortly thereafter, the ride became more even and smooth. Shen Yu closed her eyes to go over the thoughts in her mind. Before she knew it, exhaustion creeped up on her and she quickly fell asleep.
Her head angled back and was cradled by the seat. As the car gently swayed, her head started to lean in one direction and caused her neck to bend down in an angle. Tang Can thought that it was an uncomfortable position for her to be in, so he leaned in to her and softly brought her head down to his shoulder. Tang Can frowned slightly as he watched her sleep. The wrinkles in his skin crumpled around his eyebrows like the folds of a dumpling.
Commander Jin was able to observe everything that happened in the back seat using the rearview mirror. After looking at Tang Can’s expression, he gently cleared his throat and started to sing.
“All those in the revolutionary army must remember to keep the Three Rules of Discipline and Eight Points for Attention[1. A military doctrine issued in 1928 by Mao Zedong for the Red Army, which included a number of injunctions demanding high standards of behavior and respect for civilians during wartime]. The first thing to remember is to listen to orders, only when we are united can we triumph together…”
When Tang Can heard those lyrics, the expression on his face immediately changed and his face quickly lost color. It was now the color of a piece of paper.
Xiao Qiu had a pure heart and didn’t sense the underlying reason behind the song. He turned briefly to Commander Jin and said, “Commander, your singing voice is really bad! It sounds like you’re banging some old pots around. You should really stop singing before you frighten Reporter Shen out of her nap!”
Commander Jin leveled a glare at the young soldier and scolded, “Brat! What do you know?” After he finished lambasting poor Xiao Qiu, he took another look in the rearview mirror. From the look on Tang Can’s face, it seemed like his song was not in vain. His feelings were soothed, so his mind turned back to the unflattering comment Xiao Qiu made about his singing voice. Feeling his temper rise again, he pointed his finger at the soldier and said, “Hmph, you’re not afraid to laugh at my voice, brat! Just watch what I’ll do to you when we get back!”
“Aw, Commander!” shouted Xiao Qiu, scared by his commanding officer’s threats. “It was a slip of the tongue! You’re such a good guy, don’t hold a grudge over a small person like me! ”
Commander Jin smiled treacherously. “It’s too late to try to flatter me, brat! Just watch me. When we get back, I’ll make sure to take good care of you!”
A bitter and suffering expression showed up on Xiao Qiu’s face. He turned to Tang Can and begged for help. “Officer Tang! Please help me! Don’t let Commander Jin punish me when we get back!”
In actuality, Tang Can knew that the two of them were just playing around. If it was any other time, he wouldn’t mind joining in and having some fun. But he wasn’t feeling it right now. In fact, he was worried that their antics would wake Shen Yu up.
The young woman’s eyelids fluttered gently but Shen Yu didn’t wake up. When he saw that her eyelashes also trembled afterwards, he knew that she was already awake and that she was just pretending to still be asleep.
Although Xiao Qiu continued to implore Tang Can to help him, he noticed that Tang Can didn’t react at all. A look at the rearview mirror showed that the young officer seemed to be in a gloomy mood. Xiao Qiu tried to make a joke to cheer him up. But he miscalculated. His joke not only made Tang Can more upset but also shocked a sleeping Shen Yu awake!
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