Translated by Addis of Exiled Rebels Scanlations
Lan Yu was fully engaged in the process of making the plush dolls, and one doll was quickly shaped under his hands. Halfway through, he noticed that Lu RanKong was no longer staring at him, and was holding a round stone in his left hand and a small carving knife in his right hand, concentrating on carving something.
It was the stone he picked up in the morning outside the mine.
Neither of them said anything, sitting in the room surrounded by the sounds of clacking sewing machines, each doing their own thing. Lan Yu finally sewed on the last ear on the last plush doll and tossed it in the air happily, then threw it into the bamboo basket.
When he looked up, he realized that at some point, only a few people were left in the entire craft room. Basically, all the inmates had finished their tasks, and only the really clumsy ones had a little left to do.
There was also Lu RanKong beside him who had been there the entire time.
“Come on, let’s go have dinner, eat and shower, so you can use your new body wash and shampoo.” Lu RanKong said.
Lan Yu rubbed his stiff shoulders and back, turned his neck and said, “Two more minutes of rest…”
“Okay…” Lu RanKong replied in a low voice.
Lan Yu was looking down and moving his right wrist, when he saw a palm suddenly spread out in front of him. The palm was wide and dry, with well-defined bony fingers, and a small glittering white object in the middle of his hand. On closer look, it was a stone carved into a round cup, it was the size of a palm and looked very delicate. The surface was polished smooth, making it shine with a warm luster.
“Here you go…” Lu RanKong said a little embarrassed.
Lan Yu curiously picked up the cup, looked at it left and right and liked it very much. Thinking that this man had found so many toiletries for him today, he whispered, “It’s pretty…”
“Mn, if you like it, I’ll make you a set.” Lu RanKong averted his gaze.
“I like it…” Lan Yu said, “It’s just a little small, so it’s not very convenient to drink from.”
Lu RanKong abruptly turned his head and said in surprise, “This is for you to play with, not for drinking out of it.” Seeing that Lan Yu was a bit dazed, he added, “Of course, I can also make you a big one to use as a water cup.”
Lan Yu put the cup in his palm and looked at it lovingly, Lu RanKong admonished uneasily, “This is an artwork, an artwork, understand? It’s a product of the soul, a treasure, it’s not for drinking water. Maybe you only know how to fight all day long, so there’s nothing in your head and don’t understand these. I can teach you some common sense in this area.”
Lan Yu’s face slowly turned gloomy, as he clenched the cup and sneered, “Yes, all day long, I only know to fight all day long and my brain is empty. At least my eyes aren’t almost blind, and I can distinguish colors.” He shoved the cup back into Lu RanKong’s hands, “I’ll give your heart and soul and treasure back to you, I don’t want it.”
After he finished, he picked up his basket of plush dolls and headed out.
“Hey—” Lu RanKong hurriedly stood up and shouted at him, but he pretended not to hear, and walked out without looking back.
Lan Yu handed the basket of plush dolls to the guard outside, picked up the bag of toiletries and went to the canteen. When he heard Lu RanKong behind him handing over his plush dolls to the guards, he quickened his pace.
In the canteen, all prisoners were eating quietly, no one was noisy and no one was moving; obviously all had been tormented by the basket of plush dolls in the afternoon. Lan Yu went to get his meal, carrying his plate to find an empty seat, when he saw Lu RanKong walking in the door.
Not wanting to sit next to Lu RanKong, he saw a table with one seat left, so he tried to squeeze in with the others.
Everyone at the table was eating, but when they saw him walk towards them, they stopped moving. As soon as his butt hit the stool, they scattered, leaving him alone.
Then, someone else sat down next to him.
Lan Yu didn’t have to look to know it was Lu RanKong, so he just ignored him and ate. The people beside him were also silent, and only the slight sound of a spoon hitting a stainless steel plate could be heard.
Today’s dinner was so light and watery, that it was hard to swallow. The boiled vegetables weren’t fresh, but greenish yellow, floating in the soup without oil. In the stir-fried lettuce and sliced pork, the meat was all white shaky fat, and the lettuce had little to no salt.
Lan Yu dryly swallowed the white rice, ready to fill his stomach haphazardly. He didn’t notice Lu RanKong was gone, leaving half of his rice on the table.
He used a spoon to eat a mouthful of rice and chewed hard, when a small cup suddenly appeared next to his plate, smooth and milky white, the same one Lu RanKong had just made.
But it was filled with pickles, and the cup wasn’t large, so the pickles were piled up into a small peak, almost overflowing.
Lu RanKong silently put the cup of pickles next to his plate, sat down, and continued eating.
Lan Yu glanced at the cup of pickles and turned slightly sideways, turning his back toward him.
Lu RanKong pushed the cup again, until it reached Lan Yu’s plate, making it difficult for him to pretend to ignore it.
After thinking about it, he simply picked up the cup and poured half of the pickles in the rice, tossed it, scooped up a spoonful and fed it into his mouth.
“Pickles served in a treasure are quite delicious.” He said.
Lu RanKong knew that he meant to make up, and hurriedly replied, “It’s my thinking that is limited a little. Craftsmanship combined with practical value, that’s the real treasure.”
After saying that, he picked up the rest of the pickles and put it onto his own plate, mixing it as he spoke, “When we go back, I will make you an ivory one, a rice bowl, and a full toiletry and tableware set.”
“And a succulent pot…”
Lan Yu said, “The succulents on my balcony also need pots.”
“Yes, no problem.” Lu RanKong took a big mouthful of rice and slurred, “I’ll make another iron frame to set it on.”
“You can make an iron frame?”
“Yes, very nice ones with carved patterns.”
Lan Yu thought, why not make another shelf for his bear plush, so he said, “Then make one for my Gu Gu—”
Suddenly remembering that Gu Gu was the Omega of his own fabrication, he stopped his words just in time.
The good thing was that Lu RanKong continued to eat as if he hadn’t heard. Lan Yu didn’t continue to say anything and the two people quickly finished eating, before going back to the cell to get a change of clothes to shower.
He knocked on the partition beside him and asked, “Li BaoZi, you didn’t pick up these things from somewhere, did you? Why are they all used?”
Lu RanKong, who was washing his hair with soap, replied with his eyes closed, “They were all won from other prisoners.”
“Didn’t I promise to get you shampoo? I went to play cards for a while at noon today, and I didn’t even bother to rest after digging all morning, just to get you these.”
The sound of water was loud, making Lu RanKong’s voice a little muffled, but Lan Yu still heard him clearly. He made a selection in the plastic bag, found bottles of shower gel and shampoo each, and pushed them under the partition.
Lu RanKong rinsed the foam off his head and just opened his eyes when he saw the two bottles at his feet. He stared at them for a moment, picked up one of the bottles, and squeezed some into his palm to re-wash his hair.
They walked out of the bathhouse, only to find that outside was windy and raining heavily, the temperature had also dropped steeply, making their whole body feel chilled.
The two of them put the plastic basin above their heads and rushed back to the prison building in one breath.
When they returned to their cells, everyone was already in bed. Liu Junjie was reading his novel, Lin Lin and Qiao Fei were whispering on the bottom bunk, Chen Zheng was lying with his eyes closed, Wang Jin and Qiu Dao were applying medicine to each other’s wounds again, apparently they had just fought.
Lu RanKong and them greeted and exchanged pleasantries, Lan Yu then took the basin in his hand, and put both their toiletries into the cabinet. Before it was time to close and lock the door, he went to the bathroom to get soap, ready to go to the laundry room to wash the dirty prison clothes.
“Where are you going? There’s still half an hour before the doors are locked.” Lu RanKong asked when he saw him carrying the basin to go out.
Lan Yu asked rhetorically, “Washing clothes… Aren’t you going to wash your dirty clothes?”
“Ah… I feel like I can wear them again—” Lan Yu’s eyes pierced him like a sharp knife, so Lu RanKong swallowed the rest of his words back into his mouth and also picked up the basin with his dirty clothes from the ground.
“Let’s go, I’m going to do laundry too.” He said.
Down the passage and to the right was the laundry room. In this laundry room, there was only a concrete laundry table, and a drainage faucet. The spout was a little small, and there was a layer of water on the floor. Lu RanKong stopped Lan Yu when he was about to go in, picked a few bricks from the side and put some along the way, and then let him in.
The laundry room was empty, and they each stepped on the bricks and started washing clothes.
Lan Yu finished scrubbing a shirt and put it next to him to be rinsed later, then picked up his pants from the basin.
Just as he applied soap to the pants, he heard Lu RanKong say from the side, “I’m done…”
“So soon?” Lan Yu asked in astonishment.
Lan Yu propped his hands on the laundry table and narrowed his eyes at him, “How did you wash it?”
“Just flushed them with water…”
“No soap, no hand rubbing, just rinsed them with water?”
“It’s only been worn for a day, and there’s only a little dust from the mine. It’s not dirty, just rinse it and it’s gone.” Lu RanKong picked up the basin and made a gesture to go out, “I’m going to dry my clothes first.”
Lan Yu wanted to ignore it, but the basin was clearly filled with unwashed clothes, stinging his eyes. He thought of Lu RanKong wearing those clothes on his body tomorrow, and his heart was itching, and his back felt itchy, too. He finally reached out his hand and said, “Give it here…”
“What?” Lu RanKong asked.
“Give me your dirty clothes.” Lan Yu replied through his teeth.
“I’ll hang them to dry myself—”
“Hang to dry my ass! You haven’t even washed them!”
Lan Yu angrily snatched the basin from him, dumped all the clothes inside onto the laundry table, and started to apply soap.
Lu RanKong was silent as he stood by the side.
Lan Yu suddenly stopped moving and picked up a sock from the pile of foam and brought it to his eyes for a closer look.
“That’s a sock, and it’s only been worn for a day.” Lu RanKong was a little embarrassed, “I’ll wash it myself.”
Lan Yu sneered, “Do you want to rinse it with water? Your socks look familiar to me.”
This familiar color and appearance was like that pile of dried bacon hanging on the balcony.
Lu RanKong stalled for a moment, suddenly feeling a little self-conscious, “Ah, so you’re staring at me with my socks on. Indeed, you often look at my feet.”
Lan Yu threw the socks aside in disgust and said, “Who’s looking at your feet? Why are your thoughts getting stranger and stranger?” He also ordered, “There is bleach in the bag you brought in today. I put it in the cabinet, go get it.”
When Lu RanKong brought the bleach back, Lan Yu soaked the socks and then washed the rest of the clothes.
After all the clothes were washed, he started to deal with the socks, rubbing them thoroughly, finally getting them to their original white color.
“Your socks are pure white,” He exclaimed and marveled, “I thought they were gray.”