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Finding a job proved impossible. Shi Jin hasn’t graduated from high school, he was not eighteen yet, workers moving bricks were disgusted with his fat body… He could only survive by playing mahjong. Aunties and uncles at the mahjong parlor were really open-minded and easy to talk to; Shi Jin liked being there.
“Self-Pick (自摸), Chicken Hand (胡了)!” Shi Jin boldly revealed his hand and gathered the scoring chips, then smiled at his mournful opponents. “Thank you, masters. You can call me whenever you need me, I’ll be here until six o’clock.” After that, he looked at the old man standing behind him, his smile becoming even wider. “Uncle Huang, I helped you win some money.”
Uncle Huang, who saw his “Chicken Hand” scene, returned his smile and patted him on the shoulder, praising: “You must be a reincarnation of some godly player, you can win against anyone. Here, it’s for your hard work today.” While saying this, he took the money that Shi Jin had just won and added two red banknotes, stuffing it all back into Shi Jin’s hands.
Shi Jin smiled and quickly accepted the money, thanking him. Then he stood up and gave his seat, saying: “Uncle Huang, you can play instead of me, I have to go.”
“Go ahead.” Uncle Huang smiled and waved his hand. After watching the boy leave, he sat down at the table and continued his game happily.
At six o’clock, Shi Jin staggered onto the bus with the groceries he had just bought.
More than a month has passed since he escaped from the hospital. During this period of time, he traveled through many cities, working as an unskilled laborer, setting up street stalls and buying lottery tickets, surviving the first two weeks only through sheer determination. Finally, after careful consideration, he hid in Y Province, located on the border of China, and found a job in a mahjong parlor as a temporary player.
Although this kind of work environment was complex and the income not stable, but fortunately, he could leave at any time and neither capital nor formal written registration was needed. This suited him perfectly because he had to keep hiding for now.
Besides earning a living, he also paid attention to the situation of his family. The Ruixing Corporation was a major company, the change of management was big news. Shi Jin simply had to flip through the international financial news and he could see a lot of news about Shi family.
Unsurprisingly, after he gave up his inheritance, Shi Weichong joined the Ruixing Corporation and became its new chairman, thoroughly suppressing Xu Tianhua, the deputy chairman. Now, the public finally realized that Shi Weichong, who in recent years has been shining brilliantly in the Chinese business world, was actually the son of a well-known business shark, Shi Xingrui.
“Sure enough, Shi Weichong really is formidable. It only took him a month to subjugate Shi Xingrui’s long-time subordinates. If I tried to compete against him for the company, how could I win?” Shi Jin poked at his newly purchased no-name cellphone. Looking at the imposing Shi Weichong in the news photos he touched his scarred arm and shuddered at the memory of his eldest brother.
Xiao Si consoled him: <After Shi Weichong took control of the Ruixing Corporation, your progress bar dropped to 880.>
“That’s the only good news.” Shi Jin turned off the news app and looked out at the street outside the bus window, sighing quietly.
After getting the knife off his throat, Shi Jin put some effort into understanding the world in the book. As a result, he was afraid he was going mad—it was both thoroughly familiar and completely foreign. The world in the book was generally the same as the world he used to live in, however, in some details, there were subtle differences. For example, you could own a gun in China and some criminal organizations were allowed to exist legally.
For Shi Jin, it was simply inconceivable. He used to be a police officer in his last life and he knew not all policemen were allowed to carry guns then, never mind ordinary people!
<JinJin, when are you going to contact your brothers again?>, asked Xiao Si suddenly.
Shi Jin’s mind stopped wandering. He thought for a moment and said, “Before I will, the progress bar should drop to under 700. I have to reserve at least 50 points for each of them as insurance, otherwise, it will be too dangerous.”
<How are you going to make it drop?>
“I still need to make a plan,” Shi Jin replied. He had actually figured out a way of eliminating his lethal factors one by one, but it still had to be carefully perfected. After all, if you wanted to keep your life while confronting a man-eating tiger, you couldn’t be even slightly negligent.
<This, you…> Xiao Si stuttered. <You are being way too lazy. Why don’t we start looking for the owner of the second progress bar?>, it proposed timidly.
Shi Jin was slightly taken aback. He glanced at the grayed-out progress bar in his mind, his mouth opening and closing, then nodded decisively. “We can, but how are we going to find your ‘Darling’? Do you have any clues?” If he found that other unlucky guy first, it should be to his advantage—this way they could help each other out, being two people in the same plight.
<Waah, JinJin, you’re so kind! I love you! I grease you and give you a nest of little monkeys!> Xiao Si was so excited its speech became incoherent.
Shi Jin’s face turned remorseful. “You are a great system, but I really doubt I would be able to get it up for you, so… I’m truly sorry!”
Shi Jin, who was very thick-skinned, felt that revenge tasted sweet. “You haven’t told me how to find your Darling yet. Give me some hints and I’ll try my best.”
Xiao Si said in a monotonous mechanical voice: <The thread of fate.>
“Eh?” Shi Jin didn’t understand.
<Finding any clues related to my Darling—it’s up to fate.> Xiao Si explained.
“…” Shi Jin blanked out for a moment, then made sure, “Are you serious?”
Xiao Si: <Today, I feel I’m much more serious than you.>
He continued to look out the window with a troubled expression and felt that the future was bleak.
When it got dark, the bus finally reached its final stop—a bus terminal on the edge of the old and uncared-for urban park.
Shi Jin took his groceries and got off. He bypassed the gate with the ease of someone knowing his way around, heading towards a hill behind the park, and entered a small bungalow.
He stumbled upon this place by accident. It was located on the hillside and appeared shabby and overgrown with weeds, yet had a fully-equipped interior—there were beds, tables, and kitchenware. Water and electricity were turned on and there was also an independent bathroom in the basement. Living here was actually quite comfortable if one could ignore the surroundings.
According to the park-keeper, the house was once occupied by a mountain keeper. Later, the mountains surrounding the hill were all bought by some rich man and planted with fruit trees. The owner of the orchard dismissed the mountain keeper and the house was abandoned.
Shi Jin was extremally poor. After confirming the house really was ownerless, he gathered his scant possessions and simply moved in.
Today, his earnings were decent. Uncle Huang often needed to leave: to pick up his granddaughters/take care of the grandson/go home to feed his cats/let the dog out, and Shi Jin was left in charge at that time. Each time he would be rewarded with several red banknotes, making his daily income rather satisfactory.
In order to save money, Shi Jin padded his stomach with a bowl of plain noodles first, then slaughtered the pheasant he had caught yesterday. After seasoning it and preparing vegetables bought earlier, he put it into a pot and left to simmer, then fell into bed with a contented sigh.
While waiting for it to cook, he fell asleep imperceptibly. He was in the middle of a dream when Xiao Shi woke him up. <JinJin, several people are coming over here. They look rather suspicious.>
Shi Jin came awake in an instant. First, he hid the cucumber pillow with all his belongings and documents under the bed. Then he turned off the lights and tiptoed to the front door, pulling out a newly purchased dagger and gripping it tightly. He looked out the crack in the door.
What he saw was a single dark green eye, giving him a cold stare across the gap, similar to that of a savage beast.
Shi Jin was startled. Before he could react in any way, he felt a breeze coming from behind, then his neck hurt and he stopped to be aware of anything.
Before he lost consciousness though, what had passed through his mind was: I’m so hungry; my pheasant stew!
Upon waking up, Shi Jin found himself being dragged toward the living room like a dead dog.
There were several people standing in the hall. When they saw him, their leader asked in an indifferent tone, “Has he woken up yet?”
“He will soon, Four can control his strength well,” replied the man who held Shi Jin.
“Go on then.” The leader waved his hand.
“Yes.” The man who dragged Shi Jin moved toward the living room, unblocking Shi Jin’s line of sight and letting him see the people in the hallway clearly.
There were three tall men. Their appearance was either plain and ordinary, simple and honest or refined and polite; none of them would stand out in the crowd. They were wearing identical khaki coveralls, with a banana logo and words “Flowery Orchard” embroidered on the chest pocket.
Shi Jin felt he had a stroke of luck. He cried out loudly: “I’m innocent! I didn’t steal your fruit! Believe me, I am a good person!”
Xiao Si, who was about to warn him that the situation was not good: <…>
For a moment everyone froze. The refined-and-polite looking man who was asking questions before felt his face twitch. He stepped on Shi Jin’s ribs, pressing down hard, and demanded with expression warped by anger: “Tell me who sent you!”
Feeling the force bearing down on his chest, Shi Jin let out a pained grunt. He looked up at the man, whose face was distorted by rage, and inexplicably thought that there was something familiar about him. After a moment of scrutiny, Shi Jin’s expression changed to one of disbelief: “You… Aren’t you Uncle Huang?”
After his disguise was seen through, the look in the man’s eyes changed. He reached out and grabbed Shi Jin’s jaw, roaring, “Stop pretending! You deliberately got close to me at the contact point and then approached the base—it proves that the identity you set up is completely fake! Now tell me, what’s your aim, who sent you!?”
What contact point? What base? Shi Jin was stupefied. He quickly realized that there has obviously been a misunderstanding and tried to explain: “I’m just a teenager trying to make a living, I don’t understand what you mean.”
“Still going to keep lying? I see you want to do it the hard way.” The man sneered and stood up, pulling a gun out of his pocket and loading it. He aimed it at Shi Jin’s head. “I’ll give you one more chance to say something I want to hear.”
Shi Jin’s eyes widened in alarm—he was deeply aware of the damage the gunshot can cause to the human body. Cold sweat damped his forehead and the cogs in his head were turning madly. Apparently, he has been unknowingly living in some big force’s hidden base and they have mistaken him for an enemy spy.
Xiao Si, who had been silent for a long time, wailed: <JinJin, the progress bar has started to rise, it’s already at 900!>
Shi Jin also wanted to cry—after making countless calculations and plans, he actually hadn’t realized that playing mahjong also counted as a lethal factor!
“Not going to talk?” The man put a finger on the trigger and caressed it gently. “I will give you three seconds. One…”
<Ah ah ah, 930!> Xiao Si shrieked.
Why did it rise so fast?
Shi Jin’s chest constricted painfully, making him unable to take a breath.
“Two…” The refined-looking man kept counting.
Xiao Si’s voice kept rising: <950! 960! JinJin!!!>
He was going to die!
The more dangerous the situation, the calmer Shi Jin became. He continued to repeat the words “what I want to hear” in his mind. When the man opened his mouth again, he had a flash of inspiration and shouted loudly: “I’m a younger brother of the new Chairman of the Ruixing Corporation! I have a high social status and my background is troublesome, you can’t kill me!”
The refined-looking man paused. He moved the gun away and asked, looking doubtful: “Ruixing? You mean that company from overseas?”
Shi Jin nodded fervently.
The man moved his foot away, frowned, and looked toward his two companions.
Shi Jin let out a relieved sigh, rubbing his chest and coughing a few times. He turned his sight in the same direction as the refined-looking man. As a result, he couldn’t help but stare.
From behind two men, who had been standing still this whole time, emerged a thin man sitting in the wheelchair. His complexion was pallid, his face enchantingly beautiful, and his phoenix eyes were calm and seemingly devoid of life. He was wearing a black silk robe embroidered at the hem with tiny red petals of unknown flowers, resembling blood splattering at night.
He arrived beside astonished Shi Jin and asked in a soft tone, “Are you Shi Xingrui’s youngest son, Shi Jin?”
Shi Jin’s lips trembled, his eyes shifting from the man’s clothes to his face, finally stopping over the top of his head.
He looked at the second progress bar in his mind that was gradually becoming sharp and clear, face contorting from wanting both to cry and laugh… Shi Jin forgot himself for a moment and blurted out, “Darling!”
Why are you here? What’s more, why are you so close to death?
<Waah, JinJin, you’re so kind! I love you! I grease you and give you a nest of little monkeys!> – untranslatable; Xiao Si simply started to mispronounce Chinese words. I tried to make it somewhat suggestive. Original: “哇哇哇，进进你真好！窝爱腻！窝要给你生猴几！”
“Darling!” – orig. 宝贝 [bǎobèi], meaning ‘baby’, ‘treasure’, ‘darling’. I decided to use ‘darling’.
“Enchantingly beautiful” – the word used here is 妖艳 [yāoyàn], which could mean seductive, sexy, flirtatious, gorgeous, stunning etc. It doesn’t really mean that our ML looks like a woman.
This chapter was awful – all those descriptions… And here comes our ML!
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