Translated by Addis of Exiled Rebels Scanlations
The two walked for a while back to the original place, where everyone was waiting, including Qiu Dao and Wang Jin, who were already fully clothed.
“Brother Bao, Brother Qiao, we were all waiting for you! We can call it a day, so let’s get in the cart.” Liu Junjie greeted loudly.
On board the simple mine car parked on the tracks, Qiu Dao pulled down the valve overhead, and the steel cable slid forward, dragging the mine car along the tracks out of the hole. The others saw Lu RanKong and Lan Yu sitting together, but the two didn’t communicate, looking in a different direction with stern faces, and it was clear that they had had a quarrel.
Qiao Fei touched Liu Junjie, signaling the two in front of him with his eyes, and asked him in an oral pattern, “What happened?”
Liu Junjie leaned to his ear and whispered, “Brother Qiu, those two people were smoking and fighting. Fun stuff.”
“Oh…” Qiao Fei indistinctly hummed.
Soon after returning to the surface, several other mining inmates came out one after another in the mine cars. After the roll call to determine the number of people, they were led by two guards back to the prison. After a long morning of work, everyone was tired and leaned back on the back of the tracked car.
Officer Liu said to Lan Yu and Lu RanKong, “You two are new here, so let me tell you. Go back to lunch and have a good meal, eat and rest, but don’t go to play cards and gamble, and do crafts in the afternoon.”
“Got it…” Lu RanKong replied lazily.
The journey back to the prison felt faster than the way to the mine, and in a short time they crossed the last hill, stopping at the ridge of the crater. From here, they could look down on the entire QuYa Prison, which stood silently at the foot of the hill like a gray and black steel fortress.
The inmates from other areas were also returning to the prison, and the road was filled with tracked vehicles moving around, looking quite spectacular. Down the mountain, back to the prison, to the canteen, and eat.
Lan Yu and Lu RanKong didn’t say a word to each other on the way, they stared through the other as if he was air. During the meal, Lan Yu heard him asking people at other tables where they were playing cards.
This person was used to being loose, and it was estimated that he would be itchy if he didn’t gather for gambling for several days.
Lan Yu wanted to remind him that at least in this prison mission, patience should be tolerated, but remembered how he just said those scum words, and his heart was a little angry. So he didn’t make a sound, and just pretended not to hear.
Lu RanKong quickly finished his meal, and didn’t explain anything to Lan Yu, as he followed the table next to the people talking and laughing away, during which they also heard those people shouting ‘Brother Bao’ at him.
Lan Yu continued to eat calmly in a somewhat bad mood. There were inmates around him who kept sneaking glances at him, and the chatter came into his ears intermittently.
“Robbery, kidnapping, murder, human trafficking, arms smuggling…”
“Someone got information from the registration guards that he had killed thirty-six people, when in fact there were only twelve, all pregnant women carrying twins…”
“The interstellar wanted notice played every day, calling him the Twin Baby Killer…”
Lan Yu raised his eyes and everyone shut their mouths.
The door opened and a prisoner came in in a wheelchair. Lan Yu looked and saw that the person sitting in the wheelchair was Hua Ge, who had both his legs broken by him and Lu RanKong. The two legs had just healed after having been to the treatment bay, and were still bandaged with recovery agents. But his expression was still fierce, sitting in the wheelchair like he was sitting on a throne.
After the person behind him pushed him to an empty seat, he went to get a dinner plate to serve his meal. Hua Ge stared at the prisoner across the table and spat out one word, “Leave…”
The prisoner hurriedly picked up his own plate and left the table.
Hua Ge’s gloomy eyes slowly swept through the hall, and then crashed into a pair of even more gloomy, and vaguely tyrannical and bloodthirsty eyes.
Lan Yu pulled up the corner of his mouth to him and silently mouthed, “Leave…”
Hua Ge’s face turned pale and he looked down at his wheelchair, not moving a muscle. When the prisoner in charge of taking care of him came over with his meal, he whispered a few words, then the man put the plate in his hand and pushed the wheelchair out of the canteen.
The depression in Lan Yu’s heart seemed to fade, and he began to eat at ease.
By the side of the large playground where the inmates usually do exercises and run, there was a hidden corner with a high wall on one side and a machine room on the other. Now there were a few stools and a small square table set up here, surrounded by a circle of prisoners playing poker.
Lu RanKong held a cigarette in his mouth, half-squinting at the cards in his hand, then slapped them down on the table. Reaching in his jacket pocket, he pulled out a bill and put it down, saying, “Fifty starcoins…”
“Fifty starcoins! Wow, Brother Bao has a generous hand, he must have good cards.”
“My cards are good too.” A prisoner said.
“Then you call, call.”
The prisoner was a bit hesitant. Fifty starcoins could be a prisoner’s expenses for several months. But looking at the cards in his hand, he couldn’t admit defeat, “I don’t have fifty starcoins.”
Lu RanKong pinched his cigarette in his hand, slowly exhaled smoke and said boldly, “You can all call, Brother Bao doesn’t care about that small amount of money, you can call if you have shower gel, shampoo or whatever.”
“Really?” The prisoners were surprised and happy.
“Of course it’s true. Brother Bao said so.”
“Then Brother Bao, wait for me for a few minutes.” Two of the prisoners had already scattered their legs and ran to their cells.
“Brother Bao, I don’t have shampoo and body wash, but I do have a bottle of skin cream, is that okay?”
“Brother Bao! Brother Bao! I have a box of face masks that I originally got to woo a prisoner in the Beta section with, but he ended up using half of the box before rejecting me, so I asked for the rest back. Now there is still half a box left, can I use that?”
“Yes…” Lu RanKong waved his hand, “Go back and get it, hurry up.”
Lan Yu finished his meal and went back to his cell to lie down for a while, dazed and just falling asleep, when a whistle sounded. The napping inmates got up and left the building one after another to go to the back of the craft room. He followed the crowd, looking around as he went, but there was no sign of Lu RanKong.
The craft room was quite large like a warehouse, with many guards in charge of each cell block standing at the entrance, all idly gathered there to chat. A long banner was pulled on the top: ‘Rehabilitation and Production Go Hand In Hand, Quality and Efficiency Fly Together!’
Lan Yu followed the team inside, his eyes darting around inside once, but he still didn’t see Lu RanKong.
Gamble! Bet all! It’s better to lose it all and then be caught by the guards and put in the confinement room, he thought in his mind.
There were hundreds of machines in the craft room, and Lan Yu heard Liu Junjie and Lin Lin behind him wailing, “Ah, why are we making plush dolls again today?”
Qiao Fei whispered, “It’s good to make plush dolls. At least it’s better than going mining.”
“I’d rather go digging than doing this thing.” Qiu Dao said gruffly.
Wang Jin rarely agreed with him and followed with a ‘hmm’.
Lan Yu, however, after seeing the machines and the half-finished dolls in the big bamboo basket, joy overflowed in his heart from the first moment.
Such cute plush dolls looked really fluffy squeezed in the bamboo basket like that. He wanted to gently squeeze their soft fluff, run his finger through the fabric, so healing…
Under the arrangement of the guards, several people sat down in front of a row of machines in order, each surrounded by a bamboo basket of plush dolls and a bag of fluffy ears.
These plush dolls weren’t filled yet, and were only a layer of fuzzy skin with no ears, so their task was to sew on the ears or tails and other small parts. Chen Zheng was sitting to Lan Yu’s right, and to his left the sewing machine was empty, the spot reserved for Lu RanKong by someone in the same room.
He was thinking that the man wouldn’t come, and was addicted to gambling and now confined, so Lan Yu might have to go by himself tomorrow to drill that mine, when a figure sat down next to him.
At the same time, a package of things fell in his bamboo basket containing the plush dolls.
Lan Yu abruptly turned his head at Lu RanKong sitting beside him, who lazily slumped on the back of the chair, eyes not looking at him, but staring at other places.
Lan Yu looked at the bamboo basket, and the large plastic bag inside it, filled with all kinds of stuff. He leaned over and plucked the bag with his fingers and found it contained a bunch of shower gels and shampoos, even creams and masks, face washes and whatnot.
Lu RanKong still didn’t look at him, only looked at the door and faintly said, “Promised to find these for you. Got it done.”
Lan Yu picked up a small fluffy monkey 1 , rubbed it with his hand, and said nonchalantly, “Mn, thanks.”
Their cells were under the jurisdiction of Officer Wang and Officer Liu, so they both followed them outside the craft room and stood at the door with the other guards, smoking.
Officer Liu had a cigarette in his hand and turned his head before blowing a whistle, “Let’s start! Let’s start! The usual rules apply, do fifty pieces, rest when you’re done.”
The rumbling of the electric sewing machine sounded, and Lan Yu couldn’t wait to open the one in front of him and set the monkey to put the ears on it.
There were no companies that made plush dolls in this primitive way anymore, but many people still preferred to have them hand-made. With labor being very expensive, prisons take on this kind of work to generate income for themselves.
He put the ear into the opening left in the top of the head, put it under the sewing machine, and skillfully moved it back and forth. After a click, one ear was sewn on, the stitching was standard and even. The other ear was sewn on and turned over so that the stitches were buried inside and not even visible from the outside.
Lan Yu took the monkey and examined it, feeling that it wasn’t badly done, and then dropped it into the empty box and picked up another plush doll and the corresponding ear.
When he looked up, he saw that Lu RanKong was seriously dealing with an elephant, his eyebrows furrowed, the back of his hand bursting with veins, making his jaw tightly defined.
Lan Yu only glanced at it and went on with his own, keeping a speed of two minutes to finish one. At this rate, it would only take him an hour or so to finish the entire basket of plush dolls. The entire craft room was filled with the sound of rumbling sewing machines, with Qiu Dao and Wang Jin behind him making grumpy noises from time to time.
Lan Yu breezed through making the plush dolls, all the while doing the math in his head.
As Lu RanKong said, if a Lontan person occupied their lover’s spiritual domain, then as the other half, no matter what, they could also sense that something was wrong, right?
Liu Junjie checked out and Qiu Dao and Wang Jin are lovers. In that case, the most suspicious ones now would be Qiao Fei, Lin Lin and Chen Zheng.
As Lan Yu thought this, he couldn’t help but glance at the three.
They were all on the right hand side, Qiao Fei and Lin Lin were reciting the words while making the plush doll, Lan Yu heard what seemed to be a mantra: “Turn over first, then align… Even speed, light hand…”
Chen Zheng’s hand movements weren’t fast but methodical, with eyes downcast he had no expression on his face, just the usual gloominess.
Lan Yu looked at his hands for a while and turned his eyes back.
Unknowingly after working for more than half an hour, he found that the plush dolls in the bamboo basket had been half completed. He moved his neck, which was a bit stiff, and looked to his left with the unfinished puppy.
Lu RanKong on his left had stopped some time ago and was staring at the puppy in his hand, his eyes full of admiration and amazement. When he noticed Lan Yu looking over, he immediately yawned and turned back as if nothing had happened, continuing to work on the plush doll he was holding.
Lan Yu saw him holding a small blue dolphin and a piece of fin, trying to attach the fin to the dolphin’s stomach, with only three finished dolls in the bamboo basket beside him.
He peeked at the three finished products: the elephant’s two ears were stitched unevenly, and when sewn on crookedly, one was short and the other long. One of the puppy’s ears was sewn backwards, with the back of the ear facing forward. There was also a pale pink rabbit with a peachy cat tail sewn on.
The last time this person tinkered with a small gadget, he seemed to be quite handy, but the results of making a plush doll became this. The difference between light pink and peach was so big that even a blind man could see the difference, so how could he sew them together?!
Lu RanKong was still concentrating on the two fins, lips pursed into a straight line, frowning with a fully depressed face.
Lan Yu saw him put the dolphin, which was finally loaded with fins, under the needle and prepared to turn on the machine, so he couldn’t help but remind him, “It’s on backwards…”
Lu RanKong stopped moving and looked over.
“Turn the lining out, sew it up and then turn it back, so the stitches won’t show.” Lan Yu explained with a cold face.
Lu RanKong looked at the dolphin in his hand and flipped it over, just turning the belly down and back up.
Lan Yu couldn’t stand it, reached out and snatched the dolphin, pulled off the fins, turned out the lining from the opening, put on the fins again, turned on the sewing machine, clicked and sewed it, and threw it into the bamboo basket beside Lu RanKong.
The whole process took no more than three minutes.
“It’s mostly because my fingers are thicker than yours.” After a few seconds of silence, Lu RanKong said.
Lan Yu swung his head back and gestured for him to look behind him at Qiu Dao and Wang Jin.
Those two were moving slowly and cursing under their breath, but there were seven or eight finished products in the bamboo baskets beside them, and they all looked pretty good.
“They both have thicker fingers than yours.” Lan Yu said.
“It’s mostly because they’re too soft to sew.” Lu RanKong attempted to salvage an ounce of dignity.
“None of the plush dolls here are too hard.”
Lu RanKong didn’t make a sound, just frowned, his handsome face actually showing a bit of aggression.
Lan Yu looked at the plastic bag containing shower gel in the bamboo basket and said, “How about this, you’ll be responsible for matching all the tails, ears or other accessories with the dolls, and leave the sewing to me.”
Lu RanKong’s eyes lit up.
“But you have to be clear about the difference between pink and peach, goose yellow and egg yolk, dark brown and coffee.” Lan Yu said.
Lu RanKong replied quickly, “No problem…”
Lan Yu thought for a moment, picked up a small, bare, dark green monkey, handed it to him along with the bag of tails and ears, and said, “Then you find the tail of this little monkey.”
Lu RanKong searched the bag, then pulled out a tail of the same color as the monkey’s buttocks.
When he raised his hand, he glanced at Lan Yu and saw that he looked neither happy, nor angry, neither affirmative nor negative, so he wasn’t sure.
“This… definitely not.” He put the tail back.
He continued to rummage in the bag, pulling out a slightly darker colored fluff ball, quietly glanced at Lan Yu, saw him indifferently dropping his eyes, so he put this one back as well, “Not this one either…”
Lan Yu didn’t move to look at him, when he pulled out a dark green short tail out, his face showed a trace of approval.
“Finally, I found it…” Lu RanKong said after stealing a glance at him, holding the short tail as if relieved.
Lan Yu smiled and asked, “Can a monkey hang on a tree with this three-inch long tail?”
“No. Isn’t this a plush doll? It doesn’t have to be that realistic.” Lu RanKong said.
When he saw Lan Yu’s meaningful smile, he was a little annoyed again. Throwing the pile of tails into the bamboo basket, he said in frustration, “No more looking, my eyes are going blind.”
“Are you color blind?” Lan Yu asked.
“Then why can’t you see that the greens are different?”
Lu RanKong smacked his lips, “If you look closely, there are some differences. Some are darker, some are lighter, but this is probably about the same…”
“Forget it…” Lan Yu said, “I’ll do it myself, I don’t need your help.”
After saying this, he rummaged through the bamboo basket, found the parts of several dolls, and began to make them in earnest. It would have taken another half hour to finish, but now there were more dolls, he had to work harder.
Lu RanKong quietly sat aside, not making a sound. During the production intervals, Lan Yu looked over, and could see the other man was staring at his hands, full of amazement and admiration.
He wasn’t aware of Lan Yu’s gaze, but he looked away as if nothing had happened.