Mao Silu exclaimed in joy, “Zhong Qi! This is great! Are the others also looking for us?”
“Yes.” Zhong Qi replied, jumping down from the low slope and approaching the two of them. His sleeves were rolled up, his shoes were covered in mud, and there were beads of sweat on his neck and forehead. It seemed like he had been searching for them for a long time, walking so much that he was sweating profusely.
Zhong Qi said, “I’ve been looking for you guys for a while but you’re playing here with a rabbit.”
Mao Silu hurriedly explained, “No, no, the rabbit suddenly went crazy and crashed into Shiyu. We had a hard time restraining it.”
Zhong Qi noticed Mao Silu’s ankle and asked, “Did you twist your ankle?”
Mao Silu nodded. “I can’t walk.”
Zhong Qi crouched down and examined Mao Silu’s ankle, then looked at Lin Shiyu and asked, “Are you injured?”
“No,” Lin Shiyu replied.
Zhong Qi took out his phone from his pocket and called the instructor, reporting their location and the situation of the two lost individuals.
Mao Silu asked, “How do you have a phone with you?”
“I went back to the dormitory to get it,” Zhong Qi stood up. “At first, the instructor thought you two were slacking off and ran away. After they searched the dormitory building and couldn’t find you, they called other instructors and some students to come and look for you in the mountains.”
“I knew he would think that about us! Am I the kind of person who slacks off?” Mao Silu complained.
Zhong Qi calmly said, “Whether you slack off or not doesn’t matter. Anyway, Instructor Chen is very angry, and the consequences will be severe.”
As he finished speaking, footsteps approached, and a group of people ran down the hill. The stern-faced instructor rushed to the front, glaring at them with anger. He immediately scolded, “You two!”
He jumped down the slope and walked aggressively towards them, with an expression as if he wanted to devour them. “The entire platoon was mobilized just to find you two troublemakers! You disobeyed discipline and dared to run around in the mountains. Who can’t recognize the trail markers along the way? Are you blind? How can you get lost even when following people? Is your brain under your butt?!”
Instructor Chen pushed Lin Shiyu forcefully, making him stumble. Lin Shiyu furrowed his brow in annoyance.
“What are you looking at? What are you looking at? Do you have the qualifications to argue with me?” Lin Shiyu almost collided with Zhong Qi. Zhong Qi instinctively supported Lin Shiyu’s shoulder and discreetly moved him backward, saying to the instructor, ‘Mao Silu injured his foot and can’t walk. Lin Shiyu also injured his foot and can’t walk. Lin Shiyu was accompanying him.”
Another instructor tapped Instructor Chen and said, “Alright, let’s take the injured down first. It’s already dark.”
Instructor Chen glared at Lin Shiyu for a moment and pointed at him, saying, “Wait here.”
A strong soldier carried Mao Silu on his back, and the people who came to find them regrouped and headed down the mountain. Lin Shiyu walked at the back of the group, with Zhong Qi beside him, along with another instructor.
That instructor seemed friendly, and was smiling as he spoke with the two of them. “The mountain is so small, and there are signs along the way. How could you get lost?”
Lin Shiyu pursed his lips and didn’t say a word. Zhong Qi explained on his behalf, “Some people are just directionally challenged.”
Lin Shiyu gave Zhong Qi a sideways glance while the instructor chuckled. “One person lost is bad enough, but both of you getting lost, and from the same class no less? Instructor Chen is going to be furious.”
“Hmph,” came a quiet cold snort. Zhong Qi looked at Lin Shiyu, who had a cold expression on his face despite the dirt and grime on his clothes and face. He couldn’t understand why Lin Shiyu was acting so aloof and disdainful.
He remembered the water bottle in Mao Silu’s hand, a small bottle with a distinct white cap and packaging, identical to the one he had seen Lin Shiyu drinking from before they started running.
There was also the change in the way Mao Silu addressed Lin Shiyu, from using his full name to a more intimate “Shiyu.”
When Lin Shiyu and Mao Silu returned to the dormitory, they were surrounded by a group of gleeful onlookers who taunted and mocked them. Lin Shiyu initially endured it, but eventually, he couldn’t take it anymore. The dormitory became chaotic, and the neighboring room pounded on their door until things settled down.
However, more challenges awaited them.
The next day, Lin Shiyu and Mao Silu didn’t participate in training. They were directly taken to the kitchen in the cafeteria, with Instructor Chen standing behind them, arms crossed, like an imposing figure: “You two will be responsible for washing all the dishes today.”
The two stood at the entrance of the kitchen, observing the scene before them.
Dirty plates from the previous night were piled up on the counter and in plastic basins. Leftover rice, vegetables, spoiled meat, and fish bones adorned the peculiarly colored plates. The basins contained dirty water with grayish-black foam on the surface, and the vegetables soaked in the water emitted a nauseating iron-like odor mixed with scent of expired detergent.
Mao Silu had a dazed expression, while Lin Shiyu looked restless.
“Clean them well,” the stern instructor sneered mockingly. “I’ll come to inspect the results tonight.”
With that, he turned around and left.
The two of them stood in the foul-smelling cooking preparation room, engaged in a fierce internal struggle. In the end, they chose to take action. After all, if they didn’t finish washing the dishes properly today, the ruthless instructor might make them wash dishes for the rest of the military training period.
“These are so dirty,” Mao Silu exclaimed, wearing plastic gloves and frantically scrubbing the plates. “Did he intentionally leave yesterday’s dishes for us?!”
Lin Shiyu looked numb. “Who else would do that?”
“I’d rather go for a ten-kilometer run. Oh my God….”
“Shut up,” Lin Shiyu said, his head throbbing. “The smell gets worse every time you speak.”
The two fell silent and scrubbed the plates vigorously, treating each one as if it were the face of the heartless instructor. During the process, people came in to inspect their work and deliver more dirty plates. Lin Shiyu couldn’t fathom where all those people came from to generate so many dishes. The foam and dirty water only increased, and a rough estimate showed that they had to wash over two hundred plates per hour on average.
They spent the whole day in the preparation room.
When Instructor Chen finally pulled the two of them out of the kitchen room, even the usually serious instructor covered his nose and stood a few steps away from them.
“It smells like someone crawled out of the toilet.” The instructor pinched his nose with a disgusted look and added with a hint of mocking, “You stink to high heaven.”
Lin Shiyu gritted his teeth. “Whose fault is that?”
“This is the price you pay for being unreliable,” Instructor Chen sneered. ‘Since you’re here at this base, you have to abide by the rules here. Just because you’re students doesn’t mean you’ll be pampered.”
Lin Shiyu despised it when people confronted him. He was about to retort, but Mao Silu quickly pulled him back. “Um, I still have to go to the medical room to change my bandages. Shiyu, can you accompany me?”
Mao Silu persuaded him, dragging Lin Shiyu away.
“Don’t provoke the instructor,” Mao Silu said, limping and supporting Lin Shiyu. It was only when they were far away from the instructor that he spoke to Lin Shiyu. “He’s a soldier, and you can’t beat him.”
Lin Shiyu wore a cold expression as he supported Mao Silu as they walked slowly. “Just looking at his face annoys me.”
“What can we do? He’s in charge of us.”
It was night time now, and most of the students had returned to the dormitories, while a small group continued training on the field. The base was illuminated by light, shining brightly.
To get to the medical room from the cafeteria, they had to pass through a tree-lined path with a row of sinks by the roadside. Mao Silu noticed the sinks, and the unpleasant smell that permeated his whole body became particularly evident. “Shiyu, let’s wash up there.”
“After getting this dirty, what’s the point of washing up?”
“I still have to go to the medical room later. What if the doctor refuses to treat me because of the smell?” Mao Silu insisted, limping toward the sinks, making Lin Shiyu reluctantly accompany him.
“There’s still running water here.” Mao Silu reached the sink and happily picked up a half-meter-long plastic hose. “Perfect for rinsing our necks. We are too dirty.”
Lin Shiyu stood beside him, washing his hands and rinsing off the stains on his arms. He then casually remarked, “Don’t spray water everywhere.”
“Hey, why not.”
As Mao Silu spoke, he turned on the faucet.
A strong jet of water gushed out of the hose, splashing onto Mao Silu’s face. The force of the water made him choke, and he almost burst into tears. In a panic, he tried to adjust the loose faucet but inadvertently directed all the water onto Lin Shiyu, who couldn’t dodge in time.
“Why is this faucet so loose?” Mao Silu shouted as he closed the faucet, twisting it tightly. Finally relieved, he said, “It’s fine, we got only a bit wet…”
Turning his head, he saw Lin Shiyu soaked from head to toe, with water droplets dripping down, and a dark expression on his face.
“Mao… Si… Lu!” Lin Shiyu’s angry roar echoed throughout the training base. “Are you crazy?”
“I’m sorry! I’m sorry!” Mao Silu attempted to wipe Lin Shiyu’s face with his sleeve. “I didn’t mean to!”
“Get lost!” Lin Shiyu angrily pushed away his hand. “I’m all dirty now!”
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry!” Mao Silu attempted to wipe Lin Shiyu’s face with his sleeve. “I didn’t do it on purpose!”
“Get lost!” Lin Shiyu angrily pushed off his hand. “Filthy!”
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry…”
“I told you to handle the water hose properly!” Lin Shiyu wiped the water off his face. He was completely soaked from head to toe and was on the verge of exploding with anger. “Can’t you understand the human language?!”
“Hey, hey, those two over there, why are they arguing again?” Gao Jie’s voice came, and the two turned to look. The other three boys from the dormitory seemed to have just come down from the training ground and were walking in their direction.
As they approached, they saw the two of them, one with wet face and other soaked all over, with water puddles on the ground. It was easy to imagine what had just happened.
Moreover, there was a faint and subtle odor emanating from their bodies.
“Ahem.” Zhong Qi raised a hand to cover his mouth and cleared his throat with an inexplicable meaning.
Lin Shiyu immediately became vigilant. “What are you laughing at?”
Zhong Qi calmed his expression in a second and said seriously, “I wasn’t laughing.”
Ruan Zhikai glanced at them. “Were you two playing with water?”
Mao Silu said dejectedly, “No, I just wanted to wash my hands. I’ve been washing dishes in the kitchen all day and I stink. But then I accidentally splashed water all over Shiyu…”
Gao Jie was already laughing uncontrollably by their side. Lin Shiyu’s expression was about to explode, but fortunately, Zhong Qi spoke up in time, “Why don’t you go take a shower directly?”
“I still have to go to the medical room.”
Zhong Qi said, “I’ll go get the medicine for you. You guys go back and take a shower first.”
Mao Silu exclaimed, touching his own hair, “I am really that stinky?”
“No.” Zhong Qi said.
He glanced at Lin Shiyu. He was wet all over, with his hair damply sticking to his forehead and his thin military training uniform clinging to his body, revealing the lean lines of his arms and waist. There were water stains under his feet, and he looked like a pitiful chick that had just been pulled out of the water.
Zhong Qi averted his gaze and continued, “Unless you want to catch a cold. Go.”
Edited by: Jaisland