Chapter 56 - Getting Rescued
Mazha explained that he had found the suitcase in a desert poplar tree which had likely lived for a millenia. It was wedged within a crevice in the tree.
Although the paint had faded and was peeling from the outside, Shen Yu could still make out that it had originally been a bright green color.
Tang Can also noticed that and stated that the suitcase was probably issued from the army many years ago. Mazha agreed with his commanding officer’s insight. “More likely than not, this is a suitcase left behind by previous soldiers who had come to Lop Nor for expeditions. It’s likely a supply cache!”
At first, after hearing it was a suitcase filled with supplies, Shen Yu spirits rose. But soon reality sunk in. Even if it did contain food and water, how good could the food still be? She had no idea how long the box had been out in the desert and, after so many years, any food likely would have rotted or become as a hard as a rock.
Neither of the two men were too concerned with the details. Tang Can and Mazha used their knives to pry the chest open. When he saw the contents, Tang Can was even more convinced that this box came from the military. Inside were papers with the army’s letterhead on it, a map, and an old fashioned compass. Apart from those objects, there was no other objects in the box.
Shen Yu could see that the paper seemed to have a lot of writing on them. However, the words were gibberish, and she couldn’t make head or tails of it. On the flip side, Tang Can understood the contents with one glance. He chuckled, “This really is something that our previous troops left here. In fact, it was left by soldiers in the Gold Discovery Armed Forces.” Shen Yu could see that the young man was very excited at the sight of these objects. Maybe Tang Can’s father had led troops here decades ago and this was one of the places they had passed.
Out of curiosity, she picked up the compass and asked Tang Can, “Can this still be used?”
Mazha replied, “Don’t underestimate the value of this compass! This is a piece of equipment issued by the military and has been verified to be accurate after many years of use! Of course we can still use it! This is a very valuable tool. Also, this map had to be hand-drawn, look at all of the details on it. It marks oasis’ and sources of water and even has the distances between them laid out!”
Tang Can interrupted, “Mazha, stop looking at the map for now, we need to find some good stuff first!”
Excited, the soldier asked eagerly, “What sort of good stuff?”
“The notes on the paper are all written in our division’s secret code. It says that in the vicinity there are at least three supply caches. Although some of the food in those caches are probably no longer be edible, but they still hold gasoline, clothes, and equipment used to purify water. These are all supplies that we need!” explained the young officer.
Mazha became extremely happy after hearing the news. Having a supply of fuel around would be a stroke of good luck! In the previous few days, they were only able to eat raw meat because they had no way to cook it. Sooner or later, one of them would have gotten sick from eating meat that way. Now that they had fuel, they could once again cook their food, killing any pathogens in the food.
Naturally, Shen Yu was also pleased with this turn of events. She followed Tang Can and Mazha as they followed the instructions laid out on the paper. After a few hours of searching, they managed to find three supply chests and a bucket full of solid fuel.
One of the boxes contained food. The food was all supplied in the dried and compressed form. As expected, the food had dessicated in the dry desert air and had become as hard as rocks. The other two chests had clothes in them, exactly as described in the notes. Mazha cheered in joy when he saw them, “This is awesome! Now we won’t freeze to death at night!”
The desert had two faces. In the daytime, it was as hot as hell. At night, it cooled down to uncomfortable temperatures. Under these circumstances, having some extra layers was a godsend. The rest of the supplies contained water purifying tablets, a cast-iron pot, and a couple of bowls.
The male soldier was so ecstatic at the sight of all their supplies that he exclaimed that he needed to give a few kowtows in gratitude to the people who left them here. They were their saviors!
Tang Can also mentioned that with the map in hand, leaving the desert was no longer a problem anymore.
Ever since they reached this oasis, Shen Yu felt like their luck had changed. They could follow the directions on the map and leave the desert. Although it was likely that some of the waterways and sources of water had migrated or disappeared over the years, the map was still a priceless treasure. Using it, they could find the right direction to go. Their chances of surviving this journey had increased immensely.
Days had passed since they first entered the desert, and Shen Yu no longer had any sense of time left in her. Here, the days seemed to pass like years. One day, the three of them had walked for hours without finding a place to stop for water. They collapsed down, thirsty beyond belief, and reclined on the ground to take a rest.
Suddenly, Mazha exclaimed, “Aw man! There must be something wrong with my eyes right now! I’m suddenly seeing some of our dead comrades in the distance!”
Shen Yu turned her head to look in the direction that the man was pointing. She could see some camels and some soldiers. “That must be a mirage! There’s no wind today and it’s really hot right now. These are the perfect circumstances for mirages to form!”
Tang Can retorted, “Then how come I’m seeing Zhang Fei right now?”
The moment he heard Zhang Fei’s name, Mazha jumped off the sand dune. “The gods have eyes! They’re giving me a chance to see a mirage of Zhang Fei before I die!” he waxed emotionally.
Tang Can burst out into the laughter. “You dummy, that’s not an illusion, that’s the real, alive Zhang Fei! The rest of our soldiers have finally found us!” He assisted Shen Yu in getting up from the ground and started hollering at the soldiers in the distance.
When the troops in the distance saw them, they hurried over. Shen Yu and the men were finally saved!
Before they left the desert, Shen Yu had been trudging along, awake and alert. However, as soon as they left the desert, she became deathly ill. Tang Can and Mazha soon followed her. The issue was that they had eaten raw meat in the desert while trying to survive. Along with the random assortment of animals they had eaten, it had precipitated problems in their bodies.
The two men had strong foundations and their bodies were resilient. After resting for a couple days, they had recuperated almost completely. Once he was better, Mazha frisked around energetically and exclaimed that he wanted to go back into the desert because they had finally found the lost deposit of gold. In addition to that, he also wanted to find the remains of his dead comrades. He intended to bring their bodies out of the desert so they could be sent home for burial.
Shen Yu’s condition was much more critical. In the desert, she had survived through sheer force of will and stubbornness. Her will to survive had driven her to persevere and allowed her body to stomach all of the harsh conditions. Once she got out, she had relaxed completely. Her body had quickly fallen in weakness.
In critical condition, she drifted in and out of consciousness for several days. When she finally woke up, she found that she had no strength left in her body. She couldn’t get out of bed and couldn’t eat on her own. She was completely reliant on getting her nutrition from an IV bag.
Before they left, Tang Can had spent several days in the hospital keeping her company. He repeatedly encouraged her to get better. By the time he came back out of his second trip to the desert, he hoped that she could make a complete recovery, so that they could ride camels together. The young officer had remembered that Shen Yu commented on wanting to ride a camel when they came across the herd of wild camels!
“Don’t forget what we talked about earlier!” said Shen Yu, her face as pale as paper. She struggled to smile at him. The two of them had reached an unspoken understanding after their ordeal together. She could feel that things had changed between them, but she was reluctant to voice out the truth at this point.
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