Chapter 42 - Left Behind
“Mom, I’m just following the army to interview some people, I’ll be back very soon!” Shen Yu tried to comfort her mother but the smile on her face was more bitter than herbal medication.
She wasn’t sure why it was important for her to go to Lop Nor but she knew it had to be crucial to their mysterious plans. Otherwise, why else would Tang Can, who loved to play dumb, threaten her family to make her go. He would never give more information than he had to, but he had to have been desperate this time.
“Ah...yes…” her mother stuttered. Nothing else came out, which was out of the ordinary for her. Usually, her mom had a lot to say.
Tang Can snatched the cell phone from Shen Yu, ignoring her outraged protests. “Relax, Auntie! I will take good care of Shen Yu!” he promised. Before the young woman could get the phone back, he ended the call.
Shen Yu glared at him but didn’t say anything. The expression on her face spoke volumes on how she felt.
“Did you wash your face yet? Move faster! Everyone is waiting for you!” Tang Can chuckled, ignoring the disdain on her face.
It was difficult for her to fathom his true personality. No matter what expression she showed, he was always unaffected, like an eternally smiling Buddha.
Everyone was ready to set off. Shen Yu had been assigned to the last military Jeep in the compound. Other than herself, there was only the driver. She sat in the front seat and introduced herself to him. The driver’s name was Xiao Chen and he looked to be a fairly young and new recruit. He drove at a slow and steady pace. The rest of the vehicles in the group had long disappeared into the horizon but he drove patiently.
Although he was young, Xiao Chen was not a shy person and was actually very talkative. When Shen Yu saw that they were being left in the dust, she urged him to drive a little faster. Unexpectedly, this unleashed a torrent of words from him. He explained that it was more important to drive with safety in mind. Driving too quickly could lead to accidents and safety was number one in his mind. Speeding to cut down travel time by one minute wasn’t worth it if it lead to a loss of life situation.
He talked and talked until Shen Yu’s head felt dizzy. She stared blankly at the ceiling of the Jeep, at a complete loss for words.
On the highway, it was easy for them to find their way. Turn offs were marked appropriately and directions were clear. However, once they got onto the country roads, things were different. Xiao Chen knew they had to get back onto the highway after the first transfer but he didn’t know where the turn was.
“How about you call the people ahead of us and find out which way to go? It’s better to take some time to get directions then to drive until we’re completely lost,” suggested the young woman out of kindness.
Xiao Chen scratched his head, “We don’t need to go through this much effort! I’ll use my nose to sniff out the way!”
Shen Yu wanted to explode in fury. She twisted her lips and inwardly cursed at him. Do you really think you’re a dog, huh?! You think you can just smell the right way?
However, since Xiao Chen was the driver, Shen Yu had no choice but to sit obediently. Wherever he took her would be where she ended up.
As dusk came, it became very apparent that they had lost their way. They had driven so far that the only roads ahead of them were not even properly paved and were made of dirt. When Xiao Chen stepped out of the car to look around, he was flabbergasted.
“No worries! All roads will lead to Rome eventually. As long as there is a road, we can definitely catch up to the others!” Xiao Chen said optimistically. At this point, Shen Yu had been annoyed for so long that she had already given up. The soldier clearly had no idea where he was going but somehow managed to remain so sunny about everything.
Seeing that the sky was rapidly turning dark, Shen Yu calmly suggested that Xiao Qiu find a nearby village so they could rest that night. If they could find one, at least there would be people to ask where to go the next day. Continuing on their current route was not a good idea. They might get stuck in a ditch or get even more lost.
When it rained, it poured. Xiao Chen found out that the car would not start up anymore when he tried to resume driving again. Then, when he tried to fix the car, a snake had unexpectedly bitten him.
Shen Yu reacted quickly when she saw what happened. She immediately called the emergency services but when the person on the other side asked her where they were, she was caught by surprise. She had absolutely no idea where they were! If she did, she wouldn’t need to call for help! The young woman burst out into noisy sobs, despairing inside.
Xiao Chen had passed out on the ground after his encounter with the snake. After trying everything else, Shen Yu was out of ideas and options. Out of desperation, she climbed up to the roof of the car, sobbing. She started screaming for help in all four directions, hoping against hope that someone out there would find them. Perhaps a farmer in the field would hear her cries and help her.
She hollered for help for what felt like an eternity. Her throat had started to feel sore and hoarse. Just when she was about to give up from despair, a sign of help appeared!
In the distance, a group of people travelled towards her. The group contained four people: two men and two women. They all looked to be in their late twenties and their voices carried a bit of the Beijing accent. When they found out that someone had been bitten by a snake, they immediately went to go help. The men went to fix the car and the women took out medical supplies to treat the unconscious Xiao Chen. Pills were given to the young soldier and they also helped to disinfect the bite.
By the time the car was fixed, Xiao Chen had started to wake up.
The two women had their hair done in different styles. One had it up in braids, and the other combed her hair into a ponytail. They were average looking at best but seemed to be full of energy. The one with the ponytail seemed to know a lot about snakes. After looking at the bite wound, she consoled Shen Yu, “He just got bit by a very common venomous snake. Not enough poison to kill someone. As long as we’re able to get him to a hospital soon, he will be fine!”
At this moment, Shen Yu thought that these people were an answer to her prayers! They had all been of great help to her.
The six of them all squeezed into the now fixed Jeep. A man with his hair cropped short lumbered into the driver’s seat and started the car. Using a cell phone’s navigation system, they followed the directions for an hour and finally reached the nearest town hospital.
During the ride, Shen Yu had taken the time to introduce herself to everyone. The group of four were all backpackers from Beijing. They were on a journey to tour the entire country and had travelled to the south. Originally, they planned on finding some friendly Miao people to spend some time with them. On their way there, they had coincidentally bumped into Shen Yu stranded on the road.
The two men were brothers, the older one’s name was Li Fang and the younger one Li Yuan. The two women were their respective girlfriends. Li Fang’s girlfriend was called Fang Rui and Li Yuan’s girlfriend was called Yin Xuan. All of them, including Shen Yu, were around the same age. After receiving their help, it was easy for her to become fast friends with them.
The two couples had kind and pure hearts! Fang Rui told Shen Yu that, during their trip, they had also encountered a lot of difficulties. Sometimes they got sick, other times they got lost. In every situation they had either met a kind local or someone from their home province who had enthusiastically helped them. Now that they were able to help Shen Yu, it was like paying it forward for other people!
Although they had helped her in a bad situation, Shen Yu couldn’t tell them the truth about her journey. She could only tell them the bare basics. She said that she was a reporter who came to Xinjiang to interview the armed forces. Unfortunately, she had fallen behind and quickly became lost.
When she heard Shen Yu mention Xinjiang, Yin Xuan started talking dreamily about Xinjiang’s local grapes and Hami melons.
With a face full of regret, she said, “I first visited Xinjiang when I was in college. Their Hami melons are truly very sweet and tasty. All of the ones in the supermarket are fakes compared to those, not delicious at all! Also, their special flatbread, nan, which is made with butter and sesame seeds, is to die for!” She sighed in reminiscence.
Li Yuan looked at his girlfriend’s face, noticed her wistful expression, and immediately suggested that they should change their plans and go to Xinjiang first. His reasoning, beyond his desire to please his girlfriend, was solid. In the summer, the weather in Xinjiang was still warm enough to enjoy all of the sights and things to do. If they traveled there in a different season, it would be too cold to do anything fun.
Li Fang agreed instantly with this plan and smiled with approval. “In any case, our plan was to travel through the whole country to see everything! Going to Xinjiang first is a fine idea. After we finish traveling there, we could head over to Tibet and then from Tibet we could go down south to Yunnan. We could reach Yunnan just in time for Songkran, the Thai New Year, festivities!”
Since the two brothers were in agreement, Fang Rui and Yin Xuan clapped their hands in excitement. Fang Rui flung her arms around Shen Yu and bubbled, “That’s perfect! We can go to Xinjiang together, Shen Yu! I’m so excited to make a new friend like you and now we don’t even have to go our separate ways too early!”
Shen Yu felt warm inside. Everyone needed friends to make their lives happier, especially after this particular trip she had been on. With Tang Can’s group, she constantly had to figure out their secrets and true motives. Other than that, she also had to deal with Zhang Fei’s disdain and hate. She had finally met a group of people who could be real friends to her.
As for Xiao Chen, he had no objections to their plans. His life had been saved by them, so he naturally felt grateful towards the group. With their help, he probably wouldn't get lost again trying to go to Xinjiang.
The six of them found a hotel to stay the night. At this moment, Shen Yu’s cellphone rang - it was Tang Can calling her. It was almost midnight, and Tang Can said that they had just noticed that Shen Yu had been left behind now. They were trying to look for her and Xiao Chen.
Shen Yu explained what had happened to him. When he found out that she was safe, he let out a sigh of relief. He told her that the rest of the team had already exited the Hunan province. After he discovered that she had been lost, he contemplated going back to find her. Now that she was back on the road, he didn’t need to search for her. He instructed her to follow them and that they will meet up when they reached Hami city in Xinjiang.
This plan seemed good to Shen Yu. While traveling with the group, she could temporarily forget the true purpose of her trip and just enjoy the sights with friends. She could play happily while traveling to Xinjiang.
After she told him everything, she had nothing else to say to him. Although both of them implied they were going to finish the call, in reality, neither of them hung up. Because of this, Shen Yu was able to hear Tang Can and a woman talking…
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