Chapter 49 - The Storm, Pt. 1
“Don’t say stupid stuff like that!” Tang Can rebuked Mazha severely. The younger soldiers in the group were already feeling unsure and restless. If they let Mazha’s superstitions get to their head, they would all panic.
One of the men named Dongzi commented, “Actually, in my hometown, we do have ‘ghost walls’. My grandfather has encountered them before. One time, when he was working at the district county office, he left work to go home in the fog. He didn’t live that far away from the office, maybe about ten blocks or so. He rode his bicycle and couldn’t figure out why he never got home. The next morning, he found out he had ridden in circles the entire night!”
Another soldier named Guoqing cried out in shock, “Oh my god! There really are phenomena like that! Have we met a ‘ghost wall’ right now?”
Seeing that the rest of them were about to start panicking, Shen Yu interjected, “The ancients often used the activities of ghosts and spirits to explain something they didn’t understand. Nowadays, with modern science and rationale, we know there are actual natural laws affecting many things. The same is true for “ghost walls”. In fact, it is very normal for any organism to travel in circles if they don’t have a set landmark in mind when they’re moving. If you don’t believe me, try walking straight with your eyes closed and using your intuition. You’ll think you were walking in a straight line but in actuality you would end up going in circles.”
Dongzi didn’t immediately believe her words, so he took out a handkerchief to cover his eyes and started taking large steps forward. The rest of the team watched the man and found out that he actually did travel in a large circle. Some laughed while others were incredibly intrigued. The soldiers pestered Shen Yu to explain the occurence to them!
Tang Can thought that this would be a good time for them to rest and allowed the soldiers to sit for a bit. The men sat in a circle around the young woman and waited patiently for her explanation.
Shen Yu smiled. “It sounds mysterious but there is a very simple reason why this happens. None of us have legs that are exactly the same length. Furthermore, there is a different in strength and tone between them as well. We’re all asymmetrical. Because of those minute differences, we actually walk forward different distances with each leg. For example, let’s say your left stride is longer than your right. When you add up several paces for each one, you’ll slowly end up moving in a circle because of those different lengths!”
Dongzi still looked confused and asked, ‘Then why is it that when we have our eyes open, we don’t walk in circles?"
Shen Yu smiled brilliantly. “That’s because we’re using what we see in our eyes as cues. Our brain corrects for our asymmetry and allows us to walk straight. We do it automatically. Now, in our case, we don’t have a sense of direction anymore because we’re lost. Since that is the case, our brain can’t correct our steps so we think we’re walking straight when in actuality we’re just going around in the natural circle!”
Some of the soldiers felt gratified after her explanation and said that they were now educated on the ways of rational thought and would no longer give into superstitions. Others were still morose. They sighed with despair and asked what they should do now. What if they were stuck here and doomed to die?
Shen Yu thought carefully before she let out a smile. “I can’t say for sure, but I think we actually encountered a good thing today!”
Everyone was mystified by her statement. They couldn’t figure out what ‘good thing’ they met today.
Shen Yu lightly cleared her throat and profoundly said, “I guess no one knows this anymore. But, in fact, the ancients were much wiser than us modern people. The Fengshui masters of the past had long discovered this interesting phenomenon. They knew that people generally used landmarks to guide their way. When there are no reliable landmarks around, people start wandering in a circle without realizing it. The more lost they are, the more likely this happens. Using this concept, the ancients deliberately designed their emperor’s tombs to take advantage of this. Those who went into the burial sites would find themselves wandering around in circles. Superstitions would overtake them, and they would think they were stuck in a ghost wall. Once the rumors got out, fewer people would try to rob the tomb. More likely than not, since we are currently lost right now, we’ve probably somehow stumbled into an old mausoleum that’s causing us to lose our way!”
Mazha grumbled at the side, “What the hell are you saying then? How is this fortunate?”
Before Shen Yu could retort, one of the soldiers suddenly discovered something buried in the sand near him. It looked like part of a bowl was sticking out of a dune.
After he had a some time to think, Mazha exclaimed, “Oh damn! We really have stumbled into a fortunate situation!”
One of the men swiftly ran by to lift the bowl from the ground. Everyone inspected it and soon found out it wasn’t something manufactured in modern day. In fact, it looked more like ceramic pitcher for something.
Shen Yu was shocked. She had only casually said a couple of words in hopes of lifting everyone’s spirits. It was never within her expectations for someone to find an ancient artifact so quickly.
Tang Can carefully looked over the piece, taking a close look at the decorative design of flowers. He noticed that the pitcher did not have any tell-tale puddling of the porcelain glaze. He looked up and said, “I’m not an archaeologist but this looks like something that was made more than 5,000 years ago!”
Several of the soldiers cheered. Everyone immediately took out their military-issued shovels and started digging the surrounding sand dunes. The whole group thought that they had hit bank. Even if it wasn’t an old tomb, they could have also found the remains of an ancient city. Regardless, it was unlikely that the old pitcher was the only artifact around.
Compared to the others, Shen Yu was relatively calm and collected. She carefully observed the site and noticed that there were several sand dunes around them. The ground was higher in some places than others but she didn’t see signs that they were in the ruins of an ancient city.
She approached the young officer and murmured, “You should make sure that the team saves some energy for later. You need to think up a plan to get us out of the desert.”
However, Tang Can was a military officer. Those who served in the country’s forces always had the country as their first priority. If they could find a long-forgotten city, they would be able to add onto the illustrious history of their nation. For him, this would be a great honor and achievement, so he wanted to continue to excavate.
Seeing that he had no intention in taking her advice, Shen Yu sighed and walked a bit away. It had reached noon, and the intense sun beat down on her tender skin. The desert was too hot for her. Suddenly a breeze whipped by a nearby dune. She could see ribbons of sand lifting up and flying in the air towards them. Alarmed, she twisted her head around to avoid getting particles stuck in her eyes. After the dust passed her, she turned back around to look head on into the wind. Near the horizon, the sky had turned a dark, yellow color. It seemed like it was spreading towards them. She cried out in shock, “Everyone, look! What’s that in the distance? West of us?”
“Holy f*ck!” screeched Mazha, the first to identify the object. “It’s a sandstorm!”
Tang Can reacted quickly and ordered, “A sandstorm is coming our way! Everyone, jump into your ditches!” Although he knew the holes they dug would not provide perfect protection against a sandstorm, some shelter was better than none. The odds of survival were definitely better in a ditch than out in the open.
Shen Yu was trying to decide where to hide when Tang Can yanked her towards a nearby trench and shoved her into it. Before she could protest, the young officer lay on top of her, pressing her body down as deeply as he could manage. She struggled for a bit, trying to throw him off, but Tang Can yelled into her ear, “Don’t move!”
The sun had been shining brightly but within a second of Tang Can’s command, the sky swiftly turned dark. It was as if someone had thrown a blanket over the sun. The wind picked up speed until it was whipping through the group. Even though Shen Yu was sandwiched firmly under Tang Can, she could still feel sand hitting her viciously. Before long, sand had migrated into her ears, nostrils, and the back of her neck. For a moment, she choked and had difficulty breathing. She quickly covered her face with her hands and tightly shut her eyes.
Now that she couldn’t see, she concentrated on listening to the frenzy. The winds wailed and howled around her, like starving beasts looking for prey. Normally she wasn’t scared by storms, but this time it was different. A chill went through her as sand poured over her like rain. At first it was painful being pelted with dirt but soon her whole body became numb. She became dizzy and lightheaded. Slowly, the world became confusing, and she felt like she was suspended in an odd dream.
Without any way to keep track of the time, Shen Yu started to think that she would never wake up from this living nightmare. Her soul seemed to be drifting out of her body and she was in a dreamlike state. Suddenly, she could hear someone yelling, “Oh god! A gold mine…”
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