Chapter 26 – Departing the Mountains
Feeling Shen Yu’s soft, pliable body in his arms made Tang Can’s heart start pounding. A rush of blood flowed through his body, causing him to momentarily feel faint and dizzy. His eyes and throat suddenly felt dry and scratchy. He couldn’t help but stare at her face, which was awash with a faint pink tint.
Shen Yu was ignorant to the thoughts running through the young officer’s mind. She thanked him for catching her before she fell. As she struggled out of his arms, she didn’t have the chance to see the expression on Tang Can’s face.
Although the person involved didn’t notice Tang Can’s reaction, that didn’t mean that other people were not aware.
“Oh ho!” exclaimed Mazha quietly. His eyes danced, as if he noticed something amusing. He elbowed Zhang Fei who was next to him. “This is the first time I’ve ever seen our team leader’s face turn as red as a monkey’s behind!”
When Mazha elbowed Zhang Fei, he didn’t use much force. It was more of a gentle poke to get her attention. However, Zhang Fei took it differently. Jealous anger had already been building inside her, and the female soldier felt provoked when she saw Shen Yu briefly look at her as she stumbled out Tang Can’s arms. In her mind, Shen Yu was deliberately taunting her. The more Zhang Fei thought about it, the more certain she became. Infuriated, blood rushed straight into her head. Since she was unable to release her temper on the people involved, Mazha had now become the unfortunate target of her anger. The female soldier jumped up, slapped her fellow soldier on the back of his head, and started yelling at him. The slap was so heavy that stars burst into Mazha’s vision.
“You crazy, violent tomboy! Yout hit me again!” yelped Mazha. The noise that he made was enough to bring Tang Can out of his momentary daze. The young officer hastily calmed himself down.
Zhang Fei kicked Mazha hard and then sulkily stomped off to the brook. Grabbing some stones from the riverbank, she threw them into the water one by one. Although it was her turn to make breakfast, she was rebelling and was not in the mood to help with the chores. Without complaint, Mazha picked up the task of cooking breakfast. As a young man in his prime, he was always hungry so it didn’t make sense for him to bicker with the female soldier while his stomach growled.
When Shen Yu saw Mazha adding wood to the fire, she ran over to help. He smiled good naturedly at her and told her that it wasn’t necessary for her to do anything, she should just sit on the side and wait for breakfast. She sighed heavily. The people in the army were indeed different from civilians. All of the male soldiers knew how to cook and perform household chores. In the future, she should marry one and reap the benefits herself. Just as she was thinking about that, her mind involuntarily brought up Tang Can’s handsome face…
“A penny for your thoughts?” suddenly asked the person she was just thinking about. She couldn’t recall noticing when Tang Can had walked over. Her face flushed in embarrassment and she quickly grabbed a nearby piece of firewood. With her head lowered, she pretended to add fuel to the campfire.
“Go sleep for a bit! You must be tired after staying up all night,” said Tang Can as he sat down next to her and grabbed the branch she was about to hold. He broke the piece of wood in half and added it to the fire.
Shen Yu gladly took the chance to stay out Tang Can’s way and agreed to his suggestion. She stopped by to look at Wheaty. After resting for a night, the yellow colored dog had mostly recovered. Wheaty was no longer whimpering in pain and was able to get up and walk around. Shen Yu’s mood improved greatly when she saw that the dog was feeling better.
Now that it was day, Lao Li was feeling insecure about his situation. He was afraid that Shen Yu and the group would change their minds about bringing him down the mountains with them. A single person stranded in the mountains did not have many options. If the wild animals didn’t eat him, then he would still likely die from either starvation or dehydration. He followed Shen Yu like he was her shadow, babbling constantly, trying to worm his way into her good graces.
After enduring Lao Li’s company for a bit, Shen Yu started to feel annoyed. “Go sit there obediently and stop following me! If you don’t do as I say, I really will leave you here!” she growled.
Lao Li hurriedly went to comply. He sat on the ground obediently, like a discarded bag, and didn’t bother Shen Yu. Only when the food was ready did he get up and help serve breakfast to everyone.
Mazha hollered at Zhang Fei, who was still sulking by the riverside, to come back and eat. When the female soldier came back, she was clearly still in a bad mood. After taking one sip of the congee that Mazha made, she spat out the mouthful and said, “What is this? It tastes disgusting!”
“If it’s that disgusting, then don’t eat it!” scowled Mazha, offended by Zhang Fei’s deliberate pickiness. Shen Yu and Tang Can ignored them. They both knew that Zhang Fei was just having another tantrum.
Furthermore, Zhang Fei and Shen Yu were about as incompatible as water and fire. All Shen Yu wanted was to be as far as possible from the prickly female soldier.
After eating and packing up, the group drove down the mountain, with Lao Li in tow. When they reached civilization again, they dropped the thief off. Where he ended up going, no one really cared.
They traveled quickly on the highway and arrived in Changsha city before it got dark. Tang Can knew that Shen Yu had to be exhausted after traveling all day and was also aware that she didn’t get along with Zhang Fei. When they reached the district military’s guest house, he arranged for her to have a private room. After she left to rest for a bit, Tang Can notified Zhang Fei that he no longer required her services and requested that she go back to the main division. He had made his final decision, so even when Zhang Fei started making a fuss, he didn’t change his mind. When Mazha opened his mouth to plead for her, Tang Can looked him straight in the eye and the look in his face frightened Mazha so much that he swallowed down his words.
Sobbing hysterically, Zhang Fei wanted to run out of the room but Mazha grabbed onto her and stopped her. Tang Can sneered coldly and said, “Why are you surprised? I’ve seen the way you treat Shen Yu. Also who was the one who lost the dog’s head gold? If my grandfather and your grandfather found out what happened, what do you think they’ll do?”
Zhang Fei immediately became quiet and lost confidence in herself. She pursed her lips as she quickly thought. Setting aside the fact that she treated Shen Yu poorly, losing the dog’s head gold was a whole other matter. It was unlikely she could escape that crime. If their grandfathers really found out what happened, she would be flayed within the inch of her life. The dog’s head gold was very important to everyone involved and was valuable enough to instantly become a national treasure. Her own grandfather had a notorious temper, almost as bad as Tang Can’s grandfather, and he wouldn’t hesitate the punish her mercilessly.
Mazha whispered to Zhang Fei, trying to calm her down. Usually he was coarse in manner and action but this time the things he said made a lot of sense.
He kept telling her, “Sometimes you have to retreat to win, retreat to win…”
Zhang Fei slowly cooled down and started thinking carefully again. She also had her little tricks. After calculating scenarios in her head, she had an idea that could work.
When Tang Can was not paying attention, Zhang Fei slipped around him and went into Shen Yu’s room. She shook the sleeping woman awake. Sobbing piteously, she begged Shen Yu to help her. She cried and said that if she was sent back in disgrace her grandfather would flay her to the high heavens.
From her wails, Shen Yu learned that Zhang Fei and Tang Can had grown up together. Both were from military families who had good relationships with each other. It was obvious that Zhang Fei liked Tang Can romantically. Shen Yu started to feel uncomfortable. Furthermore, Zhang Fei was hinting that Shen Yu had provoked Tang Can into expelling her from the group. The female soldier’s accusations stabbed with the sharpness of spear.
After listening to Zhang Fei cry hysterically, Shen Yu felt like her head was going to explode. After not sleeping the previous night and enduring a long car ride, she was exhausted. All she wanted was to sleep until she felt human again. Fed up, she cracked open the door to Tang Can’s room, which was right next to hers, and yelled at him. She said that if he persisted in expelling Zhang Fei, then she would immediately go back to Beijin city. His quest be damned!
Tang Can’s hands were tied now and he had no other avenue. All he could do was shake his head sadly and privately lament. In his mind, Shen Yu had far too kind of a heart and Zhang Fei was a slippery snake full of devious schemes!