Chapter 9 - Old Longtan
“You must have heard wrong,” said Tang Can as soon as he recovered from the shock. From that reaction, Shen Yu knew that he would not admit to anything.
“Oh, really?” She smiled contemptuously at him. No matter how hard he tried to convince her otherwise, she no longer trusted anything that came out of his mouth.
Since they no longer saw eye to eye, there was nothing more to be said. The rest of the lunch progressed without any mishaps. Although the food had all looked appetizing, Shen Yu picked at it without much interest. She didn’t try to make conversation and acted as if everything was fine. But her eyes betrayed that she was not as calm as she seemed, and her smiles were strained.
Tang Can was not lying about the job transfer. Under his direction, Shen Yu filled out the appropriate forms and, in a blink, an entire afternoon had gone by.
A few days later, Shen Yu received her new proof of work certificate. She had been transferred to the army and was considered to be a part of the not on active duty civilian member division. In this division, civilians were able to work for the military without being an active soldier. Shen Yu was given a military uniform to wear but she did not have a specified rank or status within the army.
Even though her mother knew that her army job was temporary, she was still very happy for her daughter. Her father was the same as always and did not have any reaction to her change in status.
The whole village soon found out that she was now working for the military, and the town secretary even sent a group of people to beat the drums at the Shen family residence in order to commemorate this occasion. A certificate with “Honor and Glory to the Military” was also hung at their house. Shen Yu didn’t know whether to laugh or cry at this. She didn’t consider herself to be a true member of the army but the villagers saw it differently. There was no use in trying to explain this to them so she thanked the townspeople for their time and felt embarrassed inside.
The army’s newspaper’s editor-in-chief gave Shen Yu an assignment when she officially started working. Her first task was to conduct interviews within the armed forces. That was when she found out that Tang Can was not assigned to the local army division in her province. Her assignment required her to go with Tang Can’s unit to place called Old Longtan, which was located at the border of the province. Apparently, that was where his unit was stationed at.
The name ‘Old Longtan’ jolted Shen Yu’s memory and she immediately thought back to the time when the neighbors were gossiping about Uncle Li’s past. That was when she first heard the story of Uncle Li’s disastrous geological expedition to find the dog’s head gold. Uncle Li had lost his life savings and his sanity after he narrowly missed the object of his desire. At least, that was how the story went.
Tang Can met up with Shen Yu at the army’s newspaper office and quickly introduced the area to her. “Old Longtan is at the edge of the province and the climate there is somewhat cold. Make sure to bring enough clothes for this trip. You don’t need to bring general clothing as the army will give you standard issue.” He then told her that he would drive her back to her home to pack up some clothes.
Shen Yu scowled. Ever since she found out that Tang Can was not a part of the local army, she felt like things were moving out of control, especially since she now knew that he wanted to bring her to Old Longtan. That was the place that was said to have that legendary space gold. She knew his motives in seeking her out were not simple but she couldn’t find a hole in his explanations.
Originally Shen Yu had planned on taking the bus home to get her belongings but Tang Can vetoed that plan, saying that it would take too long. He wanted to make haste and didn’t want his unit to be delayed waiting for her. Since she didn’t have a good reason to refuse his offer, she ended up taking him up on his offer to drive her back. He took her back to Sanlitun in his Jeep and ended up introducing himself to her mother. The two hit it off immediately and started to chat as Shen Yu packed up her belongings. When she came out, she noticed with astonishment that Tang Can was sitting on a wooden bench as if he belonged there.
Shen Yu could feel her temper rising. This man was full of contradictions. Just a while ago he was telling her to hurry, hurry, hurry. And now he was chatting up a storm with her mother, as if he had all of the time in the world!
“The wooden benches at home must be very comfortable!” she said sardonically. “It looks like you don’t even want to move”. Tang Can glanced at her as he rolled up his sleeves to help her mother make dinner.
“Let’s eat dumplings tonight!” said Shen Yu’s mother. “Since Shen Yu is leaving home for a far away destination, it’s best to send her off in style!” Originally her mother was not happy when she found out that Shen Yu had to travel far from home. The sad look in her mother’s eyes made Shen Yu feel bad. Once again she was reminded that ever since Tang Can came into her life, things had been going poorly. He really was her bad luck charm!
Tang Can surprisingly helped them wrap the dumplings. To her astonishment, he looked like to be quite the old hand at it too!
In a short couple of hours, Tang Can had thoroughly charmed Mrs, Shen. At first, her mother was worried about a single girl traveling so far but now she felt like that with Tang Can at Shen Yu’s side, there was nothing for her to fss about.
Throughout dinner, Tang Can continued to remind Shen Yu to bring enough clothes on this trip. She was informed that she shouldn’t bring any summer clothes as the climate at Old Longtan was not suitable.
When Mrs. Shen heard that, she couldn’t help but frown and say, “Isn’t Old Longtan located in the south? Wouldn’t you need summer clothes in an area that hot?”
Tang Can quickly asked Mrs. Shen. “Sounds like Auntie also knows the area. Have you been there before?”
Shen Yu’s mother face blanched when she realized she made a mistake. She hemmed and hawed and avoided directly answering his question.
Her father suddenly sighed and said, “Little Yu’s mom, please get me some dumpling soup. Dumpling soup tastes the best when made from fresh dumplings. Also, bring Comrade Tang a bowl too!”
Shen Yu mother’s quickly assented and went out to grab the soup for them.
Tang Can smiled at Mr. Shen, “Does Uncle Shen know the area around Old Longtan? Our country is very big and we have a lot of famous landmarks. In fact, I heard that there are several different areas in our country that go by the name ‘Old Longtan’. Shen Yu and I are going to the one located at the border of this province.”
Her father met Tang Can’s gaze dully and nodded his head slightly. He lowered his head and focused on eating his dumplings, silent once again.
Shen Yu looked at Tang Can and then looked at her father. The look in her eyes was complicated but she continued to quietly eat her dumplings.
After they finished the evening meal, Shen Yu and Tang Can left the residence together. Her mother and father escorted them to the outskirts of the village before they reluctantly walked back towards the family residence.
Shen Yu watched until she could no longer see them in the dark night. “What game are you playing?” she asked, furious from the day’s events. “You’ve been acting all day, what the hell do you want to do?”
Tang Can laughed. “Nothing is going on! When my men came here last to investigate your Uncle Li’s affairs, they all said that your Uncle Li had panned for gold in this province’s Old Longtan. I’m sure the villagers don’t know as much as your parents, so I just wanted to asked them a little bit to confirm.”
Shen Yu’s expression turned black. She wanted to investigate Tang Can’s true intentions but held herself back when she remembered her mother’s words. She also remembered hearing the villagers talking about Old Longtan and Uncle Li but had never realized there were other places in the country that also had the same name. So she wasn’t sure how her mother, who claimed to know nothing about Uncle Li, knew there were other Old Longtan’s in existence.
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