Translated by Addis of Exiled Rebels Scanlations
Back in the cell block, there were very few inmates inside, except for a few who were still sleeping, the rest were seizing this rare opportunity to stay out of work, either relaxing outside in the sun, or playing cards in the recreation room.
After checking the bathroom, the two stopped in front of Lin Lin and Qiao Fei’s bed.
The mural was divided into two parts by their bed.
Lin Lin’s part was the sky, Qiao Fei’s part was the lush vegetation, and there were no birds in the whole painting.
Lu RanKong suddenly reached out, holding the iron frame bed and moving it out. Lan Yu wanted to help, but he stopped him.
“I can do it alone.” He said.
Lan Yu didn’t move, just focused on the mural behind him. As the iron bed was pulled out by Lu RanKong, the fresco came to life before his eyes.
The sky, with light coming through from both sides, signaled that there were two suns. The leaves were rolling with dew, it was morning…
And two birds were flying in the middle.
——White wings spread, head and tail bright red.
“There really were birds, but they were just blocked by Lin Lin’s bedpan, so we didn’t notice them.” Lan Yu said.
Lu RanKong clapped his hands, walked to the wall to look at the two birds carefully, and muttered, “Three-legged gulls…”
In the silence, he looked back at Lan Yu and said, “Is it possible that you—”
“Probably don’t understand these things. Yes, I really don’t, so if you do, tell me.” Lan Yu interrupted him.
“Come over here, and look at the bird carefully.” Lu RanKong said.
When Lan Yu came closer, he pointed his finger at the bird’s belly and explained, “Three legs, see?”
Lan Yu saw that the bird had a thin claw, slightly curled up under its belly.
“This is called a three-legged gull. Legend has it that it is a bird that lives on the planet and feeds on a rare species of tree that is not found on any other planet. Many people who are passionate about painting the planet are fond of adding one or two of these birds to their paintings.”
Lu RanKong took a step back and stared at the bird, rubbing his chin with his hand. A few moments later, he said, “But this is really a legend, there is no such bird on the planet.
Lan Yu asked, a little confused, “So that means…”
Lu RanKong raised his index finger to him, his eyes shining with wisdom, and said, “First of all…”
Lan Yu pressed that finger down on him and said, “You don’t have to put up that front every time.”
“Just say ‘first of all’ and ‘secondly’, no need to put your finger up like this.” Lan Yu said.
Lu RanKong was surprised, “I’m making a structured statement of events, and you’re the one who says ‘first of all’ and ‘secondly’ every time you put up your finger.”
“Do I?” Lan Yu asked.
“Yes, you used ‘first of all’ and ‘secondly’ when we caught that guy on the bus.” When Lan Yu looked like he didn’t remember, he reminded him, “I pressed your finger and you repeatedly rubbed it on my shoulder.”
Lan Yu thought in his heart that he was still holding a grudge, but said, “Focus on talking about business.”
Lu RanKong put his index finger up again and said, “First, Officer Liu is not as he said, the last time a prisoner had a stomach ache in the cell block, he just came in and took a cursory look at them. You know this painting is blocked by the bed, so to see the bird on it, the bed must be moved away. So the painting caught his attention at the time, and when no one was in one of the cells, he came in and moved the bed out of the way for a closer look.”
Lan Yu came to his senses and continued, “He cared too much about this painting because he recognized it as a painting of Kaiju Planet when he first saw it.”
“Yes, but the situation didn’t allow him to take a closer look, so he didn’t make sure then, but came back later.” Lu RanKong said.
“Secondly…” Lu RanKong held up another finger.
“He suddenly lost interest in talking to you because you said there was nothing about the vegetation, the birds, the sunlight on this painting that didn’t match the real Kaiju Planet,” Lu RanKong said.
Lan Yu frowned, “You mean he knew that the bird wasn’t a creature from the planet?”
“Yes, he knew it well, so after you said that, he didn’t want to talk to you anymore.” Lu RanKong said, showing a deep thoughtful look, “If you look at it this way, Officer Liu might be the Lontan person we are looking for.”
Lan Yu looked at him and said, “He saw the painting and suspected that Lin Lin was also a Lontan person, so he came to confirm secretly and found out from that three-legged gull that he wasn’t. Then he thought I might be a Lontan too, so he came to test me, and found out from this three-legged gull that I wasn’t one either.”
“That should be it.”
As they looked at each other closely, Lan Yu whispered, “I have a question…”
“What is it?”
“Why would he suspect me of being a Lontan person?”
Lu RanKong tilted his head back, looked closely at his face, and said, “Actually, I suspect you are too.”
“Why?” Lan Yu asked curiously.
“You were actually crying—”
“Enough is enough, don’t mention it again.” Lan Yu hurriedly interrupted with some exasperation on his face.
Lu RanKong laughed and said, “If I never mention it again, it will be erased from my memory.”
“It’s not a memory, it’s an illusion.”
“Yes, it’s a hallucination.”
Lan Yu thought about it and asked, “Then can we be sure that Officer Liu is the one we’re looking for? If we’re sure, we can stab him.”
He reached into his prison jacket and took hold of the needle, his eyes shining. Finally he could finish his mission and leave this prison, no more digging and planting vegetables and cleaning the duck house, and no more sleeping in a bed with Lu RanKong. If the boss was happy, he could even apply for retirement.
Lu RanKong said, “Basically, I’m sure.”
“Basically?” Lan Yu pondered over it and said incredulously, “I only had a few words with Mrs. Wang before and you said I was hesitant and not decisive enough, but now Officer Liu is so obvious and you still say it’s basically certain?”
“Mn, if you say it’s certain, then it’s certain.” Lu RanKong said.
Lan Yu looked at him with a cold face and didn’t say anything.
Lan Yu said, “I was already sure he was the one, but your attitude makes me doubt myself again.”
“Didn’t I say I was sure?”
“What you said was I said I was certain then it was certain, meaning you aren’t sure.” Lan Yu said.
Lu RanKong was surprised, “Why are you so good at drilling words? Your decision is also my decision.”
“So, are you sure or not?”
“I think so…” Lu RanKong replied.
Lan Yu came closer to him and said grumpily, “If you’re sure, then you’re sure. You’re supposed to be sure, who dares to stab him?”
Lu RanKong looked down and thought for a while and said, “You’re making me unsure too.”
“What are you talking about? You weren’t sure in the first place.”
“Let’s find a chance to catch him and ask him when no one else is around. After all, there are only two of us, so even if he really is a Lontan person, no matter which one of us is in the mental domain, one can stab the other.” Lu RanKong said.
Lan Yu also felt that this was more secure and immediately agreed to do so.
Outside came the sound of conversation, as a prisoner had returned from the recreation room. The two men hurriedly moved the bed back to its original position.
“Shall we go find him now?” Lan Yu asked in a low voice.
Lu RanKong dusted off his sleeves and said, “There’s no hurry, let’s wait for the right opportunity.”
A prisoner passed by the door and greeted them warmly, “Brother Bao, Brother Qiao, let’s go to dinner early, we’re going to see a movie tonight.”
“A movie? What movie?” Lan Yu was sensitive when he heard these two words and immediately asked.
The prisoner said, “I’m not sure what it is, but it’s customary to watch a movie on a day off.”
After the prisoner left, Lu RanKong said to Lan Yu, “Here’s your chance…”
“Hmm?” Lan Yu’s spirit lifted.
“He’s off today, so we’ll sneak into the guards’ quarters while everyone’s watching a movie tonight. No one is around at that time, so it’s convenient for us to make a move.”
“Okay…” Lan Yu was a little excited because of the action in the evening, and a little more nervous thinking about dealing with the greenskins that could drill into spirit domains.
In the afternoon the two sat on a bench outside the prison cell in the sun, and he reached out from time to time to touch the injection, repeatedly confirming it was there.
“BaoZi, has this been tested before?”
“What?” Lu RanKong asked with one arm resting on the back of the chair behind Lan Yu, crossing his feet lazily.
“Just this one…”
Lan Yu whispered, “This one, hypothetically, what if this one pushes in and turns out to be broken and nothing comes out?”
Lu RanKong slowly turned his head and looked at him for a few seconds before asking with astonishment, “How did you come up with such a hypothesis?”
“You said you haven’t tested it, what if it’s faulty?” Lan Yu asked in a somber tone, and reached into his coat pocket to confirm.
“If you touch it again and again, all the good ones will be broken by you.” Lu RanKong took his hand out and looked around, “This is made with the most advanced technology up there, and the material is not ordinary material. It’s a cohesion of many researchers’ efforts, you having such a thought is an insult to them.” He put his arm around Lan Yu’s shoulder and shook it hard, saying, “Don’t worry, even if the Sasu Planet system explodes, that won’t break.”
As the sun was setting, the two of them went to the cafeteria for dinner and waited until after dark to put up their little stools under the direction of the guards and prepare to watch a movie. The inmates in the courtyard were already lined up, a small stool in each hand, walking in an orderly manner to the back of the prison building.
“Where are we going to watch the movie?” Lan Yu heard Lu RanKong ask Liu Junjie.
“There is a big storage room at the back left by a mining company. It’s used by the prison to watch movies, have events, have town hall meetings and stuff.” Liu Junjie replied.
The two people followed the flow of people across the courtyard, before a platform made of silver-white metal material appeared in front of them, as large as half a soccer field.
Getting closer, it turned out it wasn’t a platform, but the roof of a warehouse. The warehouse was built at the foot of the ring in an area of quite a wide depression, to pass through a wide row of stone stairs to get to the gate.
After entering the gate, the warehouse had been divided into areas, because most of them were Alpha prisoners, they were classified into the Alpha section, and a small area on the right was the Beta section.
The Alpha section was divided into smaller zones according to their respective cells, and the inmates sat down in their respective zones, waiting to watch the movie.
Lan Yu’s cell, cell 11, was at the back left, and when he sat down with a small stool, the first thing he did was to observe his surroundings. It was good that the door was right behind him, so it was easy to sneak away.
After all the prisoners arrived, a whistle sounded, and all the rustling immediately disappeared as a huge floating projection appeared in the front of the warehouse.
The opening credits and theme song played, and Lan Yu heard the inmates around him wailing, “It’s that again, it’s Miner’s Love! Fuck! I have to watch it once a month.”
“I’m a miner, but with whom is my lover?”
“Yeah, this movie is too fake, which Omega would pretend to be Alpha to go mining? I might as well go to a fucking bar.”
“Forget it, don’t argue, lest the wolf dog simply switch to ‘Our Production Line’.”
“But don’t, that one doesn’t even have Omega, the lead actor in this Miner’s Love is pretty good looking.”
The discussion was getting louder and louder, everywhere was buzzing, so the prison captain looked around and blew the whistle, then picked up the loudspeaker and said in a stern voice, “Whoever doesn’t want to see it, get out.”
The entire warehouse suddenly went silent.
He turned his head again and said to the guards in charge of the screening, “We’ll watch two films tonight, watch them both before you’re allowed to leave, and put on Our Production Line after this one.”
The theme song ended and the film began.
Lan Yu saw a handsome young Alpha on the screen, facing a hovering screen and staring at it with a frown. The mentor-like old man beside him asked, “Have you thought about it? Do you want to join the army and be an honorable Star Warship soldier, or do you want to join the research and use your intelligence to contribute to the Empire?”
The Alpha clenched his fist, looked deep ahead, and said firmly, “No, I’m going to be a miner.”
“Boo— it’s a fucking fake, shit movie.” The prisoners booed en masse, and even the guards’ whistles didn’t work.
Lan Yu glanced around unobtrusively, saw the guards busy stopping the others, and turned his head to look at the gate behind him. There were only two guards there with cigarettes in their hands, chatting and laughing.
Thinking it was the right time, he elbowed Lu RanKong next to him and asked in a low voice, “What do you think of this?”
Lu RanKong also whispered back, “I think it’s pretty good.”
Lan Yu slowly turned his head and saw him staring intently at the big screen, and couldn’t help but say, “That’s not what I asked… How can you still look at it seriously at this time?”
Lu RanKong made a silent gesture with his index finger against his lips and said, “Don’t worry, there are two guards guarding our area, one is very smart and not easy to talk to, the other is more confused, we will find a way to leave after the smart one leaves.”
“How can we leave? There are two wolf dogs at the door.” Lan Yu said quietly.
“Tsk, respect. Aren’t you also a wolf dog?”
Lan Yu gave a short ‘ah’ and said, “I’m used to being led…”
“0356, 0357, what have you two been talking to each other for? When the movie is over, one of you should hand in an article on your experience of watching the movie.” The shrewd prison guard in charge of this area stood on the side and drank.
Lu RanKong squeezed his arm from below, “Stop talking, watch the movie first, we’ll wait until he’s gone…”
“0357, your writing must not be less than three thousand words!”
Lu RanKong didn’t say anything else.
Lan Yu was sitting and staring at the screen, but the rest of his eyes kept watching the movement of the prison guard. The film’s light shifted, the soundtrack was rousing, and he was vaguely aware that the miner, Alpha, was standing by the Star Warship, saying goodbye to his loved ones and friends and possibly preparing to go mining.
“Kind of inspiring.” Lu RanKong whispered sideways.
Lan Yu felt the urge to pull his calf hair again.
The prison guard walked around the side, looking at the group of prisoners from time to time. After the movie had been playing for about half an hour, he whispered to another guard and turned to the door.
“Going to the toilet…” Lan Yu heard him tell the two prison guards at the door.
He was about to remind Lu RanKong, who was watching the movie intently, when he suddenly inclined his head and said, “I’ll pretend to have a stomachache, and you’ll help me go to the medical officer.”
Lan Yu was relieved to see that he had been watching the guards’ movements. After Lu RanKong said this, he pressed his hand to his stomach and opened his mouth to start screaming in pain.
“Stop, it’s too fake, the prison guards will see it at a glance.” Lan Yu hurriedly stopped, “Are you going to close your eyes and just howl?”
“Then what else?” Lu RanKong asked.
Lan Yu said, “Let me do it…”