Chapter 41 - A Quarrel
Tang Can smiled brightly and his eyes curved up. He yelled in the distance to Shen Yu. The young woman acknowledged him and started to walk over.
“You little brat! You sure move fast! Last month there was no word about any of this!” The other officer laughed and patted Tang Can a couple times on the shoulder. He observed Shen Yu from head to toe as she came up to them and then complimented Tang Can on his good taste.
Before Shen Yu could voice her confusion, the other officer said he had other affairs to attend to and left.
“What did you guys say about me earlier?” asked Shen Yu, frowning. The expression in the other man’s eyes was odd when they had briefly met.
Tang Can chuckled. “We didn’t say much! I came over here to find you for something!”
Shen Yu looked at him suspiciously. Since he had no desire to tell her to truth, she knew it wasn’t worth her time to investigate more. So, she shelved her questions.
“What did you need me for?”
A smile briefly crossed his face. Unlike his other smiles, this one seemed unnaturally forced. “You should get some rest earlier tonight. We’re headed out bright and early tomorrow!” Apparently, they were all headed to Lop Nor, a famed salt lake in the province of Xinjiang.
She later found out that, as expected, Grandpa Tang was a force to be reckoned with. Previously, Old Mr. Yun used all types of excuses to avoid working with them. Now that the fiery old geezer was here, he immediately sent out a division of the army’s Special Forces to “ask” the other old geezer to help them. Naturally, all of the soldiers in the Special Forces brought their submachine guns along to complete this task. Apparently the gold miners were so frightened at the sight of these men that they almost peed their pants! Old Mr. Yun was of a different caliber. He had seen similar sights previously. However, under these circumstances, he knew it was better to relent than to refuse. The two old men had known each other for almost a lifetime, so they understood the ins and outs of their individual personalities.
Usually Old Mr. Tang would not go out of his way to embarrass Old Mr. Yun, but when he really wanted something, he could get testy. Old Mr. Yun obviously knew how far he could push. If he tried to be recalcitrant now, he might as well go grab a cup of tea with King Yama in the afterlife.
Tang Can didn’t try to conceal any of his knowledge regarding Old Mr. Yun’s affairs from Shen Yu. In fact, she learned that the old geezer actually had half of a treasure map. The map was believed to lead to a fabled gold mine. Apparently, it was made by a researcher who went on an expedition to Lop Nor and ended up tragically dying.
Old Mr. Tang wanted to look at that half of the map. However, Old Mr. Yun adamantly refused to hand his portion over. He stated that he was willing to bring people along with him but he would never allow anyone to look at it!
Tang Can’s grandfather flipped out when Old Mr. Yun voiced his refusal. He even took out a gun and pointed it at the other old man. He called Old Mr. Yun a senile old fool and threatened to shoot him if he didn’t comply with his wishes.
But Old Mr. Yun merely guffawed and stroked his scruffy long beard. In reply, he said, “Hey old fella, if you shoot me and I die, who will regret it more? Will you be able to die peacefully, with your eyes closed, later on?”
Old Mr. Tang almost blew a blood vessel after being provoked by Old Mr. Yun. His hands had trembled, and he almost couldn’t hold the rifle upright. When his grandson saw his shaking hands, he immediately went over and took the gun from him. If Old Mr. Tang really accidentally shot Old Mr. Yun, they would have lost more than they gained.
“You f*cking son of a bitch! You piece of shit…” screamed Old Mr. Tang as he stomped around the room in anger.
Old Mr. Yun didn’t respond. He continued to slowly sip at his tea and stayed calm. He had the upper hand in this situation!
These two had to be a couple of old frenemies. Shen Yu thought wryly after she heard Tang Can’s story.
Tang Can didn’t explain their history together in complete detail. In summary, the two men had been friends but then they had a falling out. Apparently, both of them had been soldiers many years ago and developed their original friendship then. They had been closer than blood brothers and were willing to die for each other. Unfortunately, during the Cultural Revolution, Old Mr. Tang had betrayed Old Mr. Yun in some matter. Old Mr. Yun had been locked up by the authorities during that dark time. After the calamity finally ended, Old Mr. Yun’s and Old Mr. Tang’s relationship was never the same.
Tang Can’s grandfather had felt guilt over that entire incident. Because of that, he kept silent over the gold mine map for many years. But his patience had its limits. He wanted to find that long lost gold mine for the country; it would become a national treasure! So now he had to treat Old Mr. Yun with less respect.
The truth was this whole situation was not just Old Mr. Tang throwing his weight around, forcing Old Mr. Yun to follow his wishes. It was more complicated than that, at least, that’s what Tang Can’s grandfather claimed. In fact, Old Mr. Yun was the one who originally reached out by sending a letter to Old Mr. Tang. The letter had said that Old Mr. Yun wanted to help Old Mr. Tang finally resolve his life’s regret. However, when push came to shove, the wily old geezer changed his mind! If Old Mr. Tang didn’t teach Old Mr. Yun a lesson, who would?
“That gold mine is the property of our country! You son of a bitch, do you understand? Our country’s property!” Old Mr. Tang paced circles around Old Mr. Yun while he cracked his knuckles. From an outsider’s point of view, it looked like the fiery tempered old man was getting his hands ready for a fight!
Old Mr. Yun had finished drinking his tea and was now focused on smoking his pipe. The pipe clicked and clacked as he inhaled the smoke. When a hot-tempered person met a cool and collected person, it usually drove the hot-tempered person crazy. It wouldn’t be surprising if the hot tempered person died from being infuriated by the other person.
It was said that the two old geezers talked and wheedled for a whole night. In the end, Old Mr. Yun’s resolved had crumbled. He had decided to compromise. Tang Can’s grandfather had been thrilled and laughed heartily as if he had won a great victory.
Old Mr. Yun had tapped his tobacco pipe, defeated but not beaten. He then said that as a cultured person, he refused to work with those who were crude.
Scholars cannot win against soldiers. That is a lesson that was passed through many generations. Shen Yu was not surprised that Old Mr. Tang was able to tame the old fox that was Old Mr. Yun. It was well within her expectations!
They needed to go to the infamous Lop Nor, where many people had perished. Tang Can exhorted Shen Yu to call her family back at home. He told her, “It is a mysterious and enigmatic place. Who knows what will happen when we go there? It’s better to plan for the worst while we can! Don’t leave any regrets!”
His words discomforted her and it felt like she walking into a dangerous situation. Did he want her to leave words to comfort others when she had died? Wouldn’t it cause anguish to her parents to hear them?
“I refuse to go there!” said Shen Yu in a pique of temper. Her cheeks puffed up with anger.
Tang Can laughed dryly. “So you want to be a deserter instead?”
Shen Yu raised an eyebrow and coldy replied, “You must have amnesia! I’m not actually a part of the army!”
“Then do you want to know your true family history?” asked Tang Can, flustered beyond reason. He spoke without thinking and he immediately felt regret at what slipped out.
Shen Yu shook her head. “Not interested!” She turned and went back to her room to finish packing her things. She wasn’t Old Mr. Yun and could be intimidated easily. Even if that old geezer pointed a gun at her she wouldn’t care. They all lived in a lawful society. No one had the power of life and death over her!
“Now, what if by going to Lop Nor you can help wash the guilt off of those most dear to you? They would no longer be sanctioned by the law,” said Tang Can casually. The young officer was leaning against the door frame and had his arms wrapped around his shoulders.
Shen Yu trembled slightly and her face turned pale. She pretended not to understand what Tang Can had said. “What nonsense are you saying now?”
“Some things are better left unsaid! You know exactly what I mean!” Tang Can left without trying to convince her more.
The young woman sat in her suddenly stuffy room and contemplated Tang Can’s words. After a while, she stood up and kicked her suitcase with her foot. She wasn’t going to leave anymore.
But now Tang Can had become her newest enemy! That smug bastard!
That night, the young officer came by her room to drop of some food. In a pique of temper, she dumped all of the food into the garbage can and refused to eat. She didn’t have an appetite and there were many things that were on her mind. It frustrated her to be confined by the schemes of Tang Can and the others. Her parents clearly had a very big secret that could lead to their demise. She was the most innocent one here, yet still had to deal with this mess. It just wasn’t fair!
“If you don’t want to eat, that’s fine. No one died from skipping a couple of meals,” said Tang Can when he witnessed her sulky actions. It was clear that the young officer didn’t make much of them. Instead, he once again urged her to give a phone call back to her family.
After contemplating his advice for the rest of the night, Shen Yu reluctantly called home the next morning. She told her parents that she was going to Lop Nor and didn’t add any details.
“What?” exclaimed her mother over the phone, her voice full of fear. “Lop Nor? Why are you going there?” Shen Yu could tell her mother was scared, even though she couldn’t see her face.
Shen Yu smiled bitterly. She didn’t want to think her mom was hiding anything, but it was very unlikely at this point!
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