A forest blocked their way at daybreak after a night’s trek. Towering peaks on all sides blocked the airflow, making the temperature warm and humid. This climate was advantageous for the plants’ growth and the forest before them was so dense there seemed to be no end to it. There was a great diversity of plants too and subtropical plants could be seen everywhere here.
The group entered the forest behind Kabir and continued their onward march. Four of the White Rock tribesmen used knives to chop at the thorns and vines. Tang Yu-Yan and Xia Lei walked behind Kabir, in the middle of the group. Their progress was slow. Tang Yu-Yan held an electronic device in her hand which displayed a satellite image and a flashing red signal-dot. That red dot flashed quietly, guiding the team forward.
That red dot was the distress signal sent by the team of Chinese experts.
“We’ll be able to rescue our people without alerting the warriors of the White Hun Tribe if we’re lucky,” said Tang Yu-Yan.
Xia Lei had a different opinion. “Didn’t you fail the last time? Don’t be too optimistic. I think we need a plan in case we need to face the White Hun Tribe - not a pre-prepared plan but an updated one.”
Tang Yu-Yan chuckled. “You said it was the country of women that Tang Sangzang went to, right? Sacrifice your chastity a little and let the White Hun tribes-women make you their husband. If you get one of them pregnant with a girl that girl may even end up being their queen.”
“Fuck off,” said Xia Lei.
After walking for a while more, the sun had well and truly risen. Kabir looked back at them. “Let’s take a breather here. We are in the forest so the American drones cannot spy on us.”
The main reason for them travelling at night was to avoid the surveillance and attack of American drones, as well as to avoid the Islamic militants. There was practically no need to worry about the American and Islamic forces by entering this deserted, thick forest in the depths of the mountains - the only thing they had to worry about was the White Hun tribe. There had been so sign of them so far.
“All right, let’s take a break.” Tang Yu-Yan issued the order.
The Bureau 101 agents stopped to rest and eat, replenishing some strength to their bodies.
Tang Yu-Yan sat her ass under a tree; she was dog-tired too.
“Hubby, get me a piece of jerky. And a bottle of water.” Tang Yu-Yan spoke like she was issuing commands to her henpecked husband.
Xia Lei opened his rucksack and took out a packet of beef jerky and a bottle of mineral water. As he was about to toss these items on her lap, his gaze was drawn to the area above her head.
A snake the colour of the tree trunk had slid soundlessly down towards Tang Yu-Yan’s head. Its camouflage was as good as a chameleon’s and it blended perfectly with the tree trunk. Xia Lei would not have been able to spot it if it weren’t for his left eye’s extreme sensitivity to colour-change.
This snake had a long, thin tail; characteristic of a venomous snake.
“What are you spacing out for?” said Tang Yu-Yan with a smile, “You have the look of a pervert.”
Xia Lei suddenly drew the dagger from his waist and threw. The dagger flashed, grazing the top of Tang Yu-Yan’s head as it flew past and embedded itself in the tree trunk with a thunk.
Tang Yu-Yan was startled. “What’s that for?”
“Look behind you.”
Tang Yu-Yan looked back and saw the venomous snake pinned to the tree trunk. Its mouth was already open and just inches from the top of her head. Snake blood dripped down the trunk and onto her neck; cool, cold.
Xia Lei walked over and plucked the dagger from the trunk. The snake’s body was pulled off the trunk with his dagger and there were still some signs of movement. He threw it to the ground and smashed its triangular head with a stomp.
Kabir came over and his expression changed. “This type of snake is called the ‘assassin’. It is an ancient snake species of this land. If the snake venom enters your blood you will die in one minute - there is no anti-venom.”
A fatal venom and clever camouflage - the name of ‘assassin’ was appropriate for this snake. It was the assassin of the forest.
Kabir looked at Tang Yu-Yan and spoke again, anxiously, “Mrs Yang, you must wash away the snake blood on you. Its blood is extremely venomous and it will make your skin burn as if with allergy.”
Tang Yu-Yan grew anxious at his words and climbed to her feet immediately to run to a place with no one else around. She ran for a bit, then abruptly turned her head back to look at Xia Lei and yell, “Why are you standing there? Come help!”
Xia Lei paused. “Me?”
Tang Yu-Yan glared.
Her eyes seemed to say: Is another man going to come help me if you don’t?
Xia Lei bit the bullet and went after her.
The two of them came to a patch of thick forest close to where they had made camp. Tang Yu-Yan hurriedly removed her jacket. There were lines of blood down her back - the assassin’s venomous blood.
Xia Lei gaze went to her purple bra and he forced himself to say, “It’s on your bra too… You should take it off. For safety. Don’t wear your bra anymore.”
Tang Yu-Yan’s jade-pale face coloured red. She turned to glare at Xia Lei. “You did it on purpose, didn’t you? Revenge for yesterday when I stitched up your buttock, right?”
Xia Lei shrugged. “Whatever you want to think. Don’t say I didn’t warn you if you have skin ulcerations and die here because of it.”
Tang Yu-Yan gritted her teeth, undecided.
“This is a battlefield and there’s no room for courtesies. Didn’t you say that? Hurry up! You don’t have time to waste!” said Xia Lei.
“You…” Tang Yu-Yan forced herself to move her hand to her clothing as she said, “No looking! Close your eyes!”
Xia Lei did not close his eyes. He unscrewed the cap of the bottle of mineral water, prepared to wash the snake blood off her back.
Tang Yu-Yan took off her clothing. “Seen enough? Hurry up!” she said abashedly.
Xia Lei drew close and splashed water at her back as he reached his hand out to wipe.
“Are you done?” Tang Yu-Yan’s neck was red; she was anxious.
Xia Lei continued rubbing at her back. “Why are you rushing me? What will you do if your skin’s destroyed because it wasn’t washed properly? You don’t care as much about your life as having something leave a scar on your body, huh?”
Tang Yu-Yan scoffed, “I knew you did it on purpose! You must have, otherwise you’d have killed the snake from further off, right?”
Xia Lei was speechless.
Of course it wasn’t on purpose! Still, this could be counted as repayment for her seeing his buttocks.
The cleaning was finished. “Done,” said Xia Lei.
Tang Yu-Yan did not dare turn back. She spoke fiercely, “Give me your jacket.”
Xia Lei paused. “For what?”
Tang Yu-Yan sighed, “I can’t wear my clothes anymore. You can’t let me go back like this, right?”
Xia Lei laugh-cried. He took off his jacket and draped it on Tang Yu-Yan’s shoulders. He was left with a sweatshirt but the temperature was not low here so he did not feel cold.
Tang Yu-Yan put on Xia Lei’s jacket, her face still red. She looked at Xia Lei like a wolf looking at a rabbit.
Xia Lei turned and walked off. “No need to thank me. We’re even.”
“I’ll settle the score with you later!” said Tang Yu-Yan huffily.
Xia Lei pretended not to hear.
“Wait!” Tang Yu-Yan suddenly called.
Xia Lei turned back. “Anything else?”
Tang Yu-Yan reached out her hand and pointed.
Xia Lei saw a tree where Tang Yu-Yan pointed, and a skeleton hanging from its trunk. It had been penetrated by a spear which crushed its ribs and was holding it to the trunk.
How terrifyingly strong must the owner of the spear be for the spearhead to be entirely embedded in the tree trunk after penetrating a human body?!
Xia Lei couldn’t help exchanging glances with Tang Yu-Yan. The two of them did not speak but they walked to the body at the same time.
There was still some part of clothing on the skeleton - a Soviet uniform. Items had dropped from the skeleton too; a rusty blade, a pair of long boots and a mouldy wallet.
“It feels like…” Tang Yu-Yan’s expression was sombre, “The person who killed him must’ve been stronger than an ox. Scary strength.”
“You think it’s the female warriors of the White Hun Tribe?” said Xia Lei.
“Women?” Tang Yu-Yan shook her head. “Other than women who’ve trained from childhood like me, even professional soldiers won’t have strength like this, right?”
She evidently did not believe that the women of the White Hun Tribe had such strength. But this was the White Hun Tribe territory - who could have killed this Soviet soldier other than them?
Xia Lei picked up the mouldy wallet and opened it. There were still a few Soviet-era rubles and a military identification card in it but the card was too decayed to decipher.
“The person who killed him did not take his money,” said Xia Lei, “This makes me think that it should be the female warriors of the White Hun Tribe. Money is no use here.”
Tang Yu-Yan looked about in alarm. “You think we’ve been marked?”
“Not for now, but it’ll only be a matter of time as we continue making our way through this forest,” said Xia Lei.
Tang Yu-Yan thought for a bit. “Don’t tell Kabir of this when we get back. He still has four men. They can hold still the enemy off for a bit if there’s going to be a fight. He can still be used.”
Xia Lei nodded. He knew that Tang Yu-Yan did not want to spook Kabir lest he took his men and left.
Back at camp, Kabir smiled as he asked, “All done?”
“Yes. My husband helped to clean the snake blood off,” said Tang Yu-Yan.
Kabir stared straight at Tang Yu-Yan’s chest. Her breasts had not sagged at all without a bra - it looked even more voluptuous. No man could resist looking at a chest like this with covetous eyes.
Tang Yu-Yan felt some distaste but she did not act out. “Let’s go.”
“Yes, let’s get moving.” Kabir finally stopped staring.
The group continued on their way.
A wind blew through the forest and the skeleton on the tree trunk made a strange sound as it swayed, as if telling a frightful story...Previous Chapter Next Chapter