Temporary Team of Travel Companions
When the two met face to face, Ye Wenxuan was first surprised by the scar on his face.
This Dinka man had a vicious scar on the left side of his face. It looked like an old wound, going from the left side of his forehead all the way down to his jaw. The scar sliced through the middle of his left eye, but Kabu covered that eye with a black eye mask. Ye Wenxuan couldn’t see his left eye, but could guess that that eye should be useless.
In addition, Ye Wenxuan noticed that when this person took down the cigarette in his mouth, his right hand only had three fingers.
Missing the ring finger and the pinky.
“Noah told me that you want to go to Mount Kinyeti to find someone. Who are you looking for?” Kabu flipped through his files and didn’t mince words, directly asking: “You can’t just randomly go there. Most of the people there are members of the army or armed rebels, what’s the identity of the person you’re looking for.”
“My friend, en…a very close friend.” Ye Wenxuan very seriously said some nonsense: “He is a freelance reporter, and after contacting me three days ago there has been no contact since. At that time he said that he was at Mount Kinyeti, so I want to go there to find him.”
Kabu looked at him suspiciously: “For a friend, you’ll go this far?”
Ye Wenxuan’s expression didn’t change: “Very…close friends.”
Kabu took back his gaze and opened the door to the back row: “Alright, I will reluctantly accept this reason. Get in.”
There were already two men and one woman in the car. In the shotgun seat was a very large and well-built man with a buzz cut. Because of the scorching sun in Juba, he was wearing sunglasses, and seemed quite arrogant.
The other two sat in the back row and looked very young. When Ye Wenxuan came in, both of them smiled kindly at him.
“Hi, my name is Tim. I’m a freelance journalist. It’s very nice to meet you.” The young man sitting next to him reached out his hand and said cheerfully: “You look Asian.”
“I am. I’m Tom Siris, a Chinese. Nice to meet you.” Ye Wenxuan shook his hand.
The red-haired girl on the other side smiled at him: “You can call me Gemma. That person in front is my bodyguard, Yulaya.”
Ye Wenxuan nodded. He was preparing to exchange a few more pleasantries but Kabu had already slammed the door closed and started the engine, stepping on the accelerator.
The Jeep rushed out, blowing up a cloud of dust. Kabu bit his cigarette: “Grab the handles. The roads outside the city are uneven. I won’t stop until noon to rest, so you will need to conserve your strength.”
“And,” He stared at Tim through the rear-view mirror, who was sitting in the middle: “Boy, I have to remind you that people here hate cameras. If you don’t want to be grabbed out of the car and beaten, you better put your phone and camera into your backpack.”
“…” Tim held his camera awkwardly, and after half a day he let out an “oh” and quietly put his things back.
Gemma mouthed toward them: He’s so fierce.
This comment clearly won Tim’s favor.
Ye Wenxuan actually didn’t feel anything. Kabu’s cautious and serious attitude instead let him feel a lot more peace of mind.
This guide’s observational ability and movement were quite good. If they really met some danger, he should be able to cope properly.
The Jeep sped through the streets and quickly left the city.
The roads outside the city were really much bumpier. Ye Wenxuan felt like he was sitting on a tractor, his entire body shaking back and forth. He indeed had to hold onto the door handle to maintain his balance.
Kabu drove while telling them about the things they needed to take precaution against during this trip.
“If someone throws stones at you, don’t shout or scold them.” He puffed out some smoke and said: “Ignore them or give them a bit of food, and those people will leave on their own.”
“I heard that a few days ago there was a gunfight outside the city, where government forces and rebels were fighting.” Tim couldn’t resist asking: “Are we going to pass through there?”
Kabu calmly said: “No. That place is not safe, we’re going to go around.”
“…Oh, alright.” Tim seemed like he was still somewhat disappointed.
The journey was long and boring. Ye Wenxuan chatted with them and gradually figured out the identities of the people in the car.
Tim was a freelance journalist, just like he had introduced himself earlier. But this was kind of an overstatement. He had just graduated less than a year before and wasn’t working for any news organization. At best, he could only be considered an intern.
He came here because of his desire to cover some big news that everyone was paying attention to. Adding on that a former upperclassman who had a good relationship with him was working as a war correspondent in a certain city in South Sudan, when he slightly mentioned the situation in the war zone, Tim came up with the idea of coming here.
“I personally think that this is much better than reporting about that ‘Huge thundercloud across the United Kingdom, experts claim that this is a once-in-a-century sight’ news that no one looks at.” He complained to his new companions on both sides: “If I have experience working as a journalist in a war zone, it will be a lot easier for me to find work when I go back.”
“…” Ye Wenxuan covered his mouth with one hand and coughed gently.
Gemma also introduced herself. She was a doctor dispatched from the International Committee of the Red Cross. In the past she had worked in some relatively safer areas, and this time was her first visit to South Sudan. Her worksite wasn’t far from Mount Kinyeti, a field hospital in the largest United Nations peacekeeping camp in the area.
She had long burgundy hair tied behind her head in a ponytail. Her face had some baby fat, and she looked lively and gentle.
“Yulaya was the bodyguard I hired. I heard that Eastern Equatoria isn’t very safe. The militants generally won’t treat doctors badly, but nothing is absolute. I feel much more assured having a bodyguard around.” Gemma pointed at the man sitting shotgun: “He doesn’t like to talk to people. During this journey he hasn’t spoken more than 15 words to me.”
Before she finished speaking, the man sitting in front let out a very long monosyllabic grunt, as if to express his displeasure with her comment.
“My task is only to send people to their destination in one piece, not to chat or exchange pleasantries, ma’am.” Yulaya turned to look through his sunglasses at the three people in the back, scoffing: “I need to be vigilant at all times. I’m not like you chatty good children who are living in peaceful society yet still dare to run to this kind of war zone, not knowing the dangers.”
The people chatting in the back row paused.
Gemma: “Oh, Yulaya, I beg to differ with your words.”
However, after Yulaya expressed his disdain toward them, he turned back around and didn’t pay attention to them anymore.
The three exchanged glances, and Tim whispered: “Uh…your bodyguard…”
“Leave him be, he’s always like this, sharp tongue but soft heart.” Gemma rolled her eyes and changed the subject: “Before I came here, my colleagues in the camp said that a plane had crashed near Eastern Equatoria the other day. Have you heard about this?”
Tim nodded: “I did my research before coming here. I’ve read through any news that had something to do with South Sudan!”
Ye Wenxuan’s heart moved: “I saw this online, but I’m unclear about the actual situation. Gemma, do your colleagues know some details that the media didn’t publish?”
Gemma smiled, revealing two small dimples: “This time I’m going to the Kurtu peacekeeping camp, which is quite close to the scene of the incident. At the time of the accident, my colleagues were all in the camp. One of them was calling me at that time, and then there was a sudden explosion, almost scaring me to death.”
“Not long afterward there was smoke coming out from Mount Kinyeti. But at that time there was a gunfight nearby, so when the peacekeepers in the Kurtu camp wanted to go investigate, they were ordered to come back halfway there.” Gemma mysteriously said: “In the end, they only let the Chinese peacekeeping officers and soldiers go there. It seems like it was a Chinese passenger plane. Aiya, Tom, that’s your country.”
Ye Wenxuan controlled his facial expression, showing a curious look: “I really didn’t know this, what happened later?”
Gemma: “When those soldiers returned, they brought back a few bags containing body parts and handed them directly to their entourage of military doctors.” As she spoke, she leaned over: “The crash site seems to have been surrounded. Normal people can’t go in, even reporters are restricted. But they might not have been able to stop the rebels. There is a rebel stronghold very close to there.”
Ye Wenxuan held his breath: “They couldn’t find any survivors?”
Gemma spread out her hands: “They shouldn’t have ba. With this kind of accident, the chance of survival is very low.”
Tim: “Is the crashed plane still there?”
“Of course.” Gemma said: “Such a large passenger plane, no one can transport it out ah.”
Tim couldn’t sit still: “Mount Kinyeti…my destination is pretty far from there, I really want to take a look…”
Yulaya sitting in front snorted loudly, as if to mock Tim’s arrogance.
After being repeatedly ridiculed, Tim finally couldn’t resist saying loudly: “I say, do you have a problem? You’ve been eccentric and disdainful ever since we left this morning, I’ve endured you for a very long time!”
Yulaya: “Ha, lao zi has also been enduring for a long time. You chatted this entire journey, where is there so much nonsense.”
Tim: “Which bodyguard company are you from, I’m going to call to complain…”
Gemma: “Ai, let it be, let it be…”
Kabu: “Shut up.”
The Jeep braked and stopped on the side of the road without warning. The black guide turned and looked at him with his only right eye.
“South Sudan is not a welcoming country. This place is full of beasts and gunfire. People die here every day, and only those who are always vigilant can live.” He snuffed out his cigarette butt on the steering wheel and warmed his employers: “If you don’t want me to leave you on the side of the road, you should learn to stay quiet.”
Yulaya clapped: “And not be like three schoolchildren going out on a field trip, ha!”
Kabu: “You also shut up for me, sir.”
Yulaya didn’t retort against him, just raising a corner of his mouth.
Tim and Gemma withered. Ye Wenxuan felt like he was very innocent—he didn’t speak much at all, just focusing on listening to them.
The Jeep traveled on the dirt road at a very steady pace, passing through several villages. Kabu didn’t stop, only saying that the tribal conflicts nearby were very serious, so it was best not to casually intrude into other people’s territory.
Physical problems were all solved in haystacks on the side of the road. At first Gemma, as the only woman in the team, was a little embarrassed. But after a few hours, she had grown numb to the situation.
“Kabu, how long will it take us to get there?” Gemma supported her head and said somewhat listlessly.
“If you’re asking about your destination, the earliest will be tomorrow afternoon.” Kabu pointed at Tim: “The place this boy is going, we’ll get there tomorrow morning.”
Gemma lamented: “Tomorrow…”
Ye Wenxuan looked out the window. It was full of grasslands and trees, and occasionally there would be a few animals drinking at the river in the distance. The air was filled with the smell of grass and trees.
The sun was setting.
“What are we doing tonight, there doesn’t seem to be a village here.” He looked at the vast grasslands outside and asked Kabu: “Are you preparing to drive overnight, or are we looking for a place to set up camp?”
Kabu looked at him: “It’s not good to drive at night. After driving for another hour, there will be a cave where we can live.”
Gemma groaned: “Cave…”
Tim was sorrowful: “I thought…at least there would be a bed…”
He had long known that the living situation wouldn’t be great, so Ye Wenxuan just sighed: “Alright, I understand.”
There wasn’t much to say about the night. A team of people didn’t sleep much. The next day in the car, besides Kabu and Yulaya, everyone else had dark circles under their eyes.
This undoubtedly created a new opportunity for the white bodyguard to taunt them.
This day’s journey wasn’t very smooth. When they almost arrived at the city of Seral, they accidentally entered a war zone.
“It may be a tribal conflict, or it could be the army capturing nearby towns.” Kabu put down his telescope and began to turn the car around: “This is the only road to Seral, we can’t make a detour.”
Tim had never seen war before. He huddled in his seat, holding his bag and saying: “Then…what do we do now?”
Ye Wenxuan looked at his appearance and secretly shook his head, only quietly taking out his cell phone to look at the time.
Kabu parked the car in the grass far from the war zone and opened the door to get out of the car, saying: “Wait for them to finish fighting.”
Yulaya turned and gave Tim an unkind smile: “Mr. Journalist, there are ready-made news materials here. Do you want to go outside to take some photos?”
Tim: “I…I’m not prepared yet.”
## can’t think of a title ##
Tim: “I don’t want to report on the thunderstorm in the UK! No one wants to see it, and the experts still said that it was a once-in-a-century occurrence, pah!”
Gemma: “That’s right that’s right, unless there’s a thunderstorm in the desert, I won’t believe whatever they say about some once-in-a-century occurrence.”
Tim: “If it really rains, I will eat these tires!”
Ye Wenxuan snapped his fingers, and a thunderbolt struck down in the desert.
Ye Wenxuan: “Ah! Could this be the once-in-a-century dry thunderstorm!”
Tim and Gemma: “…”
Kabu: “Come, I’ll lend you the spare tire.”
 Gemma – 姬玛, pinyin ji ma
 Yulaya – 尤来亚, pinyin you lai ya
 Kurtu – 库尔图, pinyin ku er tu
 arrogance – 不自量力, basically just overestimating his own capabilities
 Seral – 塞拉尔, pinyin sai la er, kind of confusing bc so far the country names are all real, but idk if this is
Almost 1.5 hours: 4 pm – 5:30 pm, for 3.9k characters to 2.4k words.