Chapter 32 – A Fool
“Don’t eat food from strangers, otherwise you’ll end up like grandpa. He ate something that a stranger gave him and then he died…”
That was what Tang Can had translated for her. It was what the little girl had said to her little brother when she had knocked the egg out of his hands.
Shen Yu suddenly felt like she couldn’t catch her breath anymore, as if there was something strangling her. Tang Can’s face was also pale. When they tried to get closer to the two children, the older girl ran off, towing her little brother behind her. They escaped so quickly that the girl even left the harvesting basket behind.
However, Shen Yu had acute vision. She could see that they didn’t run off far and were hiding behind a nearby haystack. It was likely that they were waiting for a chance to pick up the basket again.
Shen Yu and Tang Can looked at each other and communicated silently through their eyes. It was as if their hearts were on the same page. Apparently, there was something fishy about the way Song Geng died. But it was too late. The body had already been buried. The testimony of that little girl would not be enough to exhume his corpse and conduct an autopsy. If they tried to, the consequences would be too high for them. Furthermore, if they started pursuing this lead, it was likely the two siblings would get dragged into this.
Tang Can’s expression looked ugly. The space between eyebrows were furrowed deeply, as if he was under a great amount of stress. Despite his heavy thoughts, he kept silent as they walked back to the village.
Shen Yu’s thoughts were bleak. The recent events had tossed her into a quagmire and it made it difficult for her to find a direction to go. Why does it feel like everything on this trip has to become complicated?
Her mind turned to funeral customs. In her hometown, it was customary for family members to surround a fresh grave three days after the initial rites. The purpose was to add dirt to the burial site, burn more paper money, and make more offerings to the deceased. For the following three years, no new dirt could be added to the grave. However, she wasn’t sure if the villages here followed the same traditions. She truly suspected that she was related to Song Geng in some way, so she wanted to stay in the village until the full funeral rites were finished. It would be her way of paying her respects properly to him. When they got back to the branch secretary’s office, Shen Yu decided to ask the man. However, it turns out that Tang Can was a step ahead of her. He had already posed that question.
The branch secretary nodded and said that they did have this custom. However, times had changed. Most of the younger generation had moved out of the village to find work. Keeping a custom like this wasn’t practical as most people couldn’t take off work for that long. With fewer and fewer people able to keep the tradition alive, the village adapted by having it all done on the same day.
“Then I will have to bother you again, sir,” said Tang Can after the branch secretary explained the village’s customs. “Please accompany us as we properly finish sending Song Geng off the afterlife!”
The middle-aged man hurriedly shook his hand and said, “Not a bother, not a bother at all!”
Shen Yu watched Tang Can calmly from the side. A faint smile appeared on her face. Her previous grudge against him regarding her disappearing map had dissipated after she saw his thoughtful actions today. As someone who considered herself to be honest and good-natured, it was important for her to keep an open mind, especially since she didn’t have any concrete proof that Tang Can stole it. Furthermore, could she guarantee that the laundry attendant hadn’t nicked it? It was possible that the girl working there was just feigning innocence and had lied to her.
After they completed the funeral rites, Shen Yu started interacting with Tang Can more. Most of the day had passed and it was now early evening. It was too late for their group to set out, so they all had to spend an extra night in town.
Dinner was at the branch secretary’s house, so the group started walking over. Suddenly, a tall man came out of nowhere and rushed towards Shen Yu. The strange man grabbed her waist and pulled at her pants. Shen Yu screeched in terror and beat the man with her hands.
The man had attacked Shen Yu from behind. Tang Can was walking in front of Shen Yu, so he was only alerted he heard her scream. His eyes turned red with fury when he saw the man, whose entire body was filthy, struggling with her. He marched over quickly and kicked the scoundrel away from her. Precise and forceful, his kick sent the man flying several meters away. On the ground, the attacker howled in pain and started crying like a child. He was babbling something but Shen Yu had no inkling on what he was saying.
Tang Can wanted to continue disciplining the man but before he could walk over, the branch secretary grabbed onto his arm and restrained him. In the local dialect, the middle-aged man explained something to the young officer but, once again, Shen Yu could not understand what he was saying.
Afterwards, Tang Can relayed to her what the man said. The man who had attacked her was a fool. Although he was physically around thirty years of age, mentally the simpleton was like a three year old. The fool would roam around the village all day, salivate at women stupidly, and giggle like a little child. In all other aspects he was stupid but the one thing he seemed to know was liking the opposite sex. He would try to pursue any woman he saw. Even the old grannies in their fifties and sixties were not exempt from him trying to pull down their pants. Everyone in the nearby villages knew his reputation, so all of the local women avoided him as if he were a rabid animal.
Once he found out that Shen Yu’s attacker was a fool, Tang Can decided to not pursue him. Otherwise, after seeing how scared she was, he would have followed up to give the man a beating he would never forget!
Tang Can now felt like he needed to keep a close eye on Shen Yu. Even if she wasn’t happy about it, he decided it was necessary for her own safety. He took ahold of her hand and didn’t let go, as if he was afraid that another accident would happen if he didn’t keep an eye on her. After being frightened by the village fool, Shen Yu no longer felt safe. Tang Can was now her protector and she had no desire to stray from him.
The branch secretary asked two of the townspeople to take the fool back home. Once Tang Can was aware of the man’s identity, most of his righteous fury had dissipated. During the simpleton’s attack, he had kicked the man brutally in reflex. But now, he was not sure how much he injured the fool. He didn’t want to go to the man’s home himself since he wanted to protect Shen Yu, so he asked Commander Jin and Xiao Qiu to help him out. Tang Can took out five hundred yuan from his pocket and gave it to them. The idea was that they would go on his behalf and give the fool’s family members the money as an apology for hurting the man. If the family still was not happy, then they could find him and he would negotiate as needed.
When the branch secretary understood their intentions, he went along with Commander Jin and Xiao Qiu to help smooth things over.
Shen Yu was finally able to calm herself down after being scared half to death. Anxious thoughts crowded her mind. Blackie had been injured severely after Tang Can kicked him, and she wondered if the fool had been hurt badly. It wasn’t that she felt sympathy for her attacker. She was worried that the fool’s relatives would cause trouble for Tang Can and make it difficult for their group.
Shen Yu fretted over these thoughts until Commander Jin and Xiao Qiu came back. Luckily, the family was not angry at Tang Can. In fact, they were relieved that they didn’t have to make reparations themselves. The fool’s habit of harassing women had caused them a lot of trouble in the past. Usually they were the ones who had to apologize for his actions. This was the first time they had received an apology and reparations.
Tang Can had also been worried that the money he gave would not be enough. However, after helping with Song Geng’s funeral arrangements, it was all the money he had left for this trip. Had the family not been happy, he would have had to ask Commander Jin to loan him some more. Fortuitously, things had gone better than he had forseen. Relief flooded him.
Commander Jin put his hand in his pocket and took out an object. He showed it to Shen Yu and said, “The family of the fool found this in his pockets. Take a look at it. Is this something he stole from you when he attacked you?”
Shen Yu looked at the object curiously. The expression on her face immediately changed!