Translated by Addis of Exiled Rebels Scanlations
From the third military camp on Zata Planet, the nearest main city, Bell, was still more than two hundred kilometers away. Under the hot sun, on the only road in the desert, a military SUV was driving.
“For our date, we’ll go to the mall, I’ll buy you clothes, accessories, bags, and anything else you want.” Lu RanKong drove the car and said boldly, “This is the essential first stage.”
Lan Yu sat on the passenger side, silently took out his wallet, took out Lu RanKong’s payroll card, and waved it in front of him between his fingers, “375 credits.”
“You only have 375 credits left on your card. If you take me to a good restaurant for a meal, you will be humiliated by the waiter in public because you wouldn’t be able to pay.”
The SUV went off direction and was driven off the pavement, raising a cloud of yellow sand on the desert as it turned.
“How come I only have this much left?” Lu RanKong braked the car, alarmed.
“That’s what I wanted to ask.”
Lu RanKong recalled for a moment, and said, “I bought adhesives on the black market, and then I bought some Relo Plus metal, and I spent all the money.” He looked at Lan Yu apologetically, “I didn’t pay attention to it, but the Relo Plus Metal is very good, I used it to make two small jade weapons, in fact, I could make a set of armor for your bear out of it.”
“My bear can’t wear such expensive clothes.”
“It’s not clothes, it’s defensive gear.”
“He doesn’t need defensive gear, he has fur.” Lan Yu said, “And he doesn’t fight with other plushes.”
“It looks cool.” Lu RanKong patiently explained, “I’ve always wanted to get a set for my beast.”
“No need…” Lan Yu refused.
Lu RanKong thought about it and said, “From now on, all my money belongs to you. I want to spend it with your permission, okay?”
“What about today?” Lan Yu glanced at him askance.
Lu RanKong looked at him and said, “Buy, whatever you want to buy.” He pondered and added, “I still have money, I just don’t want to touch it if I didn’t earn it. But it’s okay to spend it, I’ll fill the card back up later.”
Lan Yu grunted, put the card away and said lazily, “Your card is all here with me, so if you pay, you’ll be paying with my money, right? Just call me gege and let I’ll buy you clothes, bags and accessories.”
Lu RanKong laughed and called out while driving, “Gege…”
“Shame on you, you’re too sweet.”
“Gege. Let me kiss you again.”
“Mn… What are you doing? Watch out for the road…” Lan Yu pressed the car window, lying down to look outside, the wind brushing his cheeks, all those thousands of dirt mounds became very cute.
“The first step of dating is to buy, but of course, that step can be skipped today. The second step is to watch a movie.” Lu RanKong listed the steps he strictly wanted to follow.
“I’m okay with watching a movie. I wonder what are some good movies.” Lan Yu squinted his eyes slightly in the wind with a comfortable look on his face.
Lu RanKong put his hands on the steering wheel, eyes ahead, and said, “I think the one we watched at QuYa Prison was good. The Miner’s Love…”
Lan Yu couldn’t help but roll his eyes.
“It’s very touching and positive and inspiring.” Lu RanKong finished his praise and clicked on the terminal, checking what movies were playing today while driving.
“The Legend of the Two Dragons?”
“Praise for Mecha?”
“Jesse’s Pule Planet.”
“Let’s go with this one…”
Lan Yu thought that this movie name sounded better than the previous two.
Lu RanKong rested his hands on the steering wheel, eyes glancing at the terminal, and said, “This movie only has two shows today. We can’t catch the morning one, and the afternoon one is at three o’clock. When we get to Bell, it’ll almost be one o’clock, so it’ll be just in time.” He turned off the terminal and said with some excitement, “Now we’ll go straight to the second step of the date, watch a movie, and later we’ll—”
The front hood of the SUV suddenly emitted an ear-splitting sound, interrupting his words, followed by a puff of white smoke, and the car slowly came to a stop.
“What happened?” Lan Yu asked.
Lu RanKong pushed open the door and said, “I don’t know, I’ll go and take a look, you just sit there and wait for me.”
Lan Yu sat in the car and watched as Lu RanKong opened the front hood, waited until the white smoke cleared, and then went inside to check. After a while, he straightened up and slammed down the hood, walked to the passenger side, propped one hand on the roof, and looked down at Lan Yu through the window.
“The sea and the desert, two very different landscapes, gives Zaata Planet a unique beauty. Especially walking in the desert, surrounded by wind, lovers and sunshine. The world is vast and free, it is as if the body, mind and soul have been washed clean.” Lu RanKong said.
Lan Yu calmly asked, “Did the car break down?”
Lu RanKong turned his head and looked into the distance, “Mn…”
The desert was endless, a brownish-yellow color that couldn’t be seen, with eagles soaring high in the turquoise sky. There was only a lonely road stretching into the distance in the desert with two tiny black dots slowly moving forward.
“It’s such bad luck, I heard long ago that the military camp scrapped a batch of vehicles, just haven’t had time to take them away. As a result, I wasn’t careful and picked one of them.” The sun was high and Lu RanKong was walking with his own military jacket on his head, explaining as he walked.
Lan Yu also walked with his own jacket on his head and a wooden face without saying a word.
“Are you thirsty?” Lu RanKong took out the water bottle from his waist, unscrewed the cap and handed it to him.
“No, I’m not thirsty…”
Lu RanKong unscrewed the cap and put it back on, clicked on the terminal and said, “It’s only about thirty miles from here to Bell City, at the speed we’re going, we’ll be there in two hours, and we might be able to catch the movie.” Lan Yu glanced at him and Lu RanKong changed his tone, “I don’t think we’ll make the movie, so let’s jump ahead in the plan and do the next step.”
“What’s the next step?” Lan Yu couldn’t help but ask.
Lu RanKong said solemnly, “A Ferris wheel ride…” He cleared his throat and added vaguely, “And kissing on it…”
“Is there a Ferris wheel in Bell? I’ve never heard of it.” Lan Yu had been to Bell twice and didn’t find a Ferris wheel anywhere.
Lu RanKong said, “Yes, I’ve checked it on the terminal.”
“Where is it?”
“The children’s park…”
Lan Yu stopped and said, “That’s not a Ferris wheel, is it? It should be some kind of merry-go-round or something.”
“Well, just pretend it’s a Ferris wheel. We have to go through the dating process, don’t we?”
“You have the nerve to kiss in the middle of a group of kids?”
“Let’s be subtle and gentle…”
Lan Yu wondered, “Why do you have to go through all those steps? Where did you learn to do that?”
Lu RanKong hastily clicked on the terminal and showed him a saved page, “I just learned it in the past two days.”
Lan Yu looked down and saw that the title of the page was [Ten Things You Must Do on a First Date], and he didn’t bother to read the content, so he raised his hand and deleted it. “Don’t care how others are dating, let’s date our own way.”
Seeing that Lu RanKong was a bit aggrieved, he added, “Can other people go on a date and walk for hours in the desert? I don’t think so. Why do the same thing when the situation is not the same?”
Lu RanKong didn’t say anything.
As the two continued down the road, they could see small animals from time to time, running on the cracked yellow soil. They ran through the giant pillar cactus that spread out and grew, and occasionally ran up to the highway. There were few cars on this highway, and those animals weren’t afraid of people. Two rabbits, not knowing whether they were fighting or chasing, ran onto the highway and actually circled Lan Yu’s legs twice before running away.
“Want some water?” Lu RanKong asked Lan Yu for the seventh time, touching the water bottle behind him, worried that Lan Yu would be thirsty.
Lan Yu was a little sweaty from walking, so he took a few sips from the canteen and paused when he handed it back. He looked to his left and asked Lu RanKong, “What do you think that is? A wolf or a wild dog?”
Lu RanKong took the water bottle and turned sideways to look at it, and also stopped in his tracks. He muttered, “That’s a wolf…”
A hundred meters to the left, four gray wolves had appeared at some point, spitting their long tongues, silently approaching them, and stopped moving when the two noticed them, only standing still and watching from afar.
Lan Yu quickly took off the jacket on his head and put it on, and reached for the gun behind his waist. He realized that he hadn’t brought his gun with him because he was on a date. He asked Lu RanKong, “Did you bring your gun?”
“No, we’re going to Bell for a date, why bring that?”
“Then what do we do?” Lan Yu panicked and looked around to see if there was anything he could hold in his hand as a weapon. But there was nothing around, just a few giant cactus trees on the side of the road.
Lu RanKong said, “Let’s keep going and see what they want.”
Lan Yu followed Lu RanKong at a stiff pace, not even looking to his left, only asking under his breath, “Are they coming?”
“Then what are they doing?”
“They’re following us.”
Lan Yu couldn’t help but look sideways and saw that the four wolves were really following their pace, walking slowly on the left side, very leisurely. He was relieved when he heard Lu RanKong say, “They look very leisurely, but they are actually pretending and looking for an opportunity.”
“Looking for an opportunity to do what?” Lan Yu didn’t notice that his voice had become shrill.
Lu RanKong looked back at him and said, “Don’t be afraid, I am also looking for an opportunity.”
“What are you looking for?” Lan Yu’s volume increased a lot, and when he noticed the four wolves looking over instantly, he lowered his voice and said, “Don’t be reckless, we haven’t taken anything with us!”
Lu RanKong let out a laugh and stared at Lan Yu, his gaze was interested, as if he was admiring his nervous look.
“What are you staring at? Look over there, it’s still looking at me.” Lan Yu was tempted to reach out and wring him. He stared at the wolves for fear that they would suddenly rush over, and urged Lu RanKong, “Look at them, keep an eye on them. If one of us keeps a dead eye on them and the other looks like he doesn’t care, they won’t dare to come over.”
Lu RanKong let out another laugh.
“Why are you still laughing and smiling?” Lan Yu gritted his teeth and said hatefully.
“Do you want to play an interesting game?” Lu RanKong suddenly asked him, his eyes shining with some excitement.
Lan Yu refused directly, “No…”
As soon as the words left his mouth, without any warning, Lu RanKong suddenly rushed out at the wolves, roaring loudly like a beast while running and waving his jacket.
Lan Yu froze, and so did the four wolves, all standing still. By the time Lan Yu reacted, Lu RanKong had already rushed to half the distance of the wolves, roaring furiously and swinging his jacket in a tiger-like manner.
Lan Yu couldn’t think too much about it now, so he closed his eyes and let out a long growl and rushed out, his mouth wide open and his face fierce. While running, he quickly took off his jacket and waved it above his head like Lu RanKong.
The wolves were obviously confused, and they started to cower and retreat, and after a few steps back, they turned around and ran, looking back as they ran, still a bit reluctant to give up.
Lu RanKong had already rushed behind them like a whirlwind, aimed at the last wolf and kicked it in the air, roaring, “Who the fuck do you think you are?!”
There was a muffled sound, and the leather boot kicked the wolf’s belly heavily. The wolf let out a miserable howl and drew a long arc in the air, then thumped to the ground, twitching a few times and then didn’t move. The remaining three wolves no longer hesitated and started to run wildly towards the distance, not even looking back.
Lan Yu also rushed up, followed by a few steps, threw the jacket in his hand in that direction, and said with all his might at the backs of the three wolves, “Screw your mothers!”
Lu RanKong came forward, put his arm around his shoulders and laughed, “Exciting, wasn’t it?”
Lan Yu nodded, his mouth mechanically saying, “Exciting…”
“I knew you’d like it.” Lu RanKong walked forward to pick up his jacket, came back to take his hand, and said, “Come on, let’s go on.”
Lan Yu was held by Lu RanKong and walked woodenly on the road for a while before he woke up and became excited after taking a closer look. He said, “You should have saved one for me to kick.”
“I couldn’t, they ran away.”
Lan Yu said, “Then you should have waited for me and rushed up together.”
“You were following pretty quickly.”
“I couldn’t kick one away, so it wasn’t perfect.” Lan Yu lamented a bit and said, “I don’t usually swear.”
Lu RanKong was a bit confused, “When did you swear?”
“Just a moment ago, I was talking about their mothers… or whatever.” Lan Yu walked with his head down and a smile on his face.
“Oh, that ah, how is that called a swear word?” Lu RanKong walked a few steps before looking at him again compassionately, “I can’t believe you call that a swear word…”
The two continued to walk forward with their jackets on their heads and their mouths casually pulling east and west, and as they walked, Lan Yu stopped again.
“What’s wrong? Do you want some water?” Lu RanKong asked as he went to touch the water bottle hanging behind his waist.
“No, I don’t want to drink water…” Lan Yu’s eyes burned into his, “Want to play an exciting game?”
Lu RanKong looked at him, alertly stopped and began to look around, and when he saw to the right, his gaze froze. Just over a hundred meters away, next to a few giant pillars of cactus, there was a surprisingly small pride of lions, what appeared to be a male and four or five females, lazily lying on their backs.
“Want to play? I can go ahead and rush over…” Lan Yu took off his overhead jacket and grabbed it in his hand, asking in a somewhat leery, lowered voice with a glint in his eye.
Lu RanKong hurriedly pulled him far from the road, saying, “Forget it…”
It wasn’t until they were far enough from the lions that he let go of his hand.
It was now early October, after the hottest period, but after all, it was noon, so the sun was still a bit hot. The two walked for a while, and Lan Yu was the first to notice that the sun was gone. The weather was already overcast, and a cool breeze was blowing in the air. He looked up at the dark clouds pressing down in the sky, “Is it going to rain?”
Lu RanKong also squinted at the sky and said, “No, the weather in Zaata Planet desert isn’t like other places. Basically, it doesn’t rain, although it resembles dark clouds, when the wind blows, it disperses.”
Lan Yu felt a drop of cold on his face, wiped it with his finger, reached out to Lu RanKong and said, “Look, it’s raining.”
Lu RanKong took his hand in his and walked on, saying easily, “Occasionally, there are a couple of drizzles, but they disappear as soon as the clouds clear.”
As soon as the words left his mouth, dense rain fell on his face… The rain enveloped the entire desert, and a gray curtain was drawn between the sky and the earth. The dry and cracked ground soon accumulated a layer of water, and there were small animals running in the rain, splashing all the way back to their holes.
The whole world seemed to be nothing but endless rain and desert, and the two people on the highway.
“Is it cold?” Lu RanKong asked the person in his arms aloud as he walked.
The rain was so heavy that they both wore only soaked shirts, overlapping their jackets over their heads, one pulling the other, holding tightly to each other as they walked forward.
Lan Yu pressed into his arms more and said, “It’s not cold…”
He didn’t feel cold, since Lu RanKong’s body, even if he was wet, was still emitting a hot temperature, which dispersed all the coldness.
“I’m sorry…” Lu RanKong repeated.
Lan Yu looked up at him, his hair hanging wetly on his forehead, and a few drops of rain on his face.
Lu RanKong lifted the hand that was around his shoulder and went around behind his head to wipe the water off his face and whispered, “I’m sorry, I didn’t check the car beforehand.”
He looked frustrated, and his voice was thick with remorse and angst.
A sand lizard crawled past their feet in a panic and dove headfirst into a hole in the road.
Lan Yu watched the lizard disappear and then suddenly gave Lu RanKong a peck on the lips and said, “It’s good to walk like this.”
“I screwed up our date.”
“No, you didn’t screw it up. I like walking with you.” Lan Yu said, “Among the ten things you showed me to do on a date before, there’s a walk in the rain.”
Lu RanKong was silent for a while and said, “Actually, I’m happy to just keep walking, as long as you’re there.”
Lan Yu didn’t answer, but only tickled his waist with the hand that was wrapped around it. Lu RanKong then squeezed his shoulder. He again tickled Lu RanKong’s waist, and Lu RanKong squeezed his shoulder again.
The two of them went back and forth in silence for a few rounds before they started chasing each other, without using their jackets to cover their heads, running in the rain like a gust of wind. Before they knew it, the sky cleared, the clouds cleared and the sun came out. The rain washed the desert, and the small animals reappeared.
Both men’s clothes had been dried and hung crumpled on their bodies, and their hair looked like two piles of thatch on top. Only their boots were still wet, making a squishing sound as they walked.
Lu RanKong reached out to ruffle Lan Yu’s hair and said, “Almost there, we’re already halfway.”
Gradually, some villages and scattered houses could be seen, the city of Bell wasn’t far away, and vehicles appeared on the road. A pickup truck pulling hay passed by, and the two of them stopped the car and got into the back, climbed onto the high pile of hay and lay down.
“Finally, I can rest a little.” Lan Yu spread his limbs and let out a comfortable sigh.
Lu RanKong lay beside him, turned on his side, looked at him for a moment, and then slowly moved over. The truck was slow, and there were fast passing vehicles, and two people could be seen on the haystack of the bed, embracing and kissing, topped with a head full of hay.
A driver stepped on the gas to quickly pass the truck.
When the kiss ended, Lan Yu’s lips were sore and numb. He lay on his back on the haystack, and his eyes reflected in the turquoise blue sky and Lu RanKong’s eyes that were full of deep love and ecstasy.
The two men didn’t speak, both panting slightly, looking intently at each other over the shifting hay. Lu RanKong dropped another series of tiny kisses on his face before lying down next to him and looking at the sky together.
With the scent of hay in their nostrils and the soft breeze sweeping across their faces, Lan Yu leaned his head over and snuggled up to the person beside him.
This is my first date, and it’s not bad, he thought to himself.