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“And you say you are not gangsters!”
“It’s not ‘you’, it’s ‘we’, comrade,” corrected him Gua Two. He smiled and patted Shi Jin’s shoulder. “Little JinJin, you should believe Gua Three—we really are honest businessmen.”
Shi Jin snapped: “So I guess the mangoes in our trucks are really mangoes?”
“Well…” Gua Two retracted his hand and asked kindly, “Little JinJin, are you tired? Do you want to change seats?”
Isn’t your way of changing the topic a little too random?!
Shi Jin ignored him and stepped on the gas pedal, pulling closer to the vehicle in front.
In the early morning, the convoy left the dirt road and headed deeper into the jungle through an uneven, obviously temporary path. Shi Jin had enough self-awareness to know he was not experienced enough to control the big truck under these circumstances, so he asked Gua Two to take over.
After another torturous hour, the convoy finally arrived at its destination—a hidden village built in the depths of the jungle.
Gua Two got out of the truck and said a few words to a thin man waiting at the entrance of the village. The man nodded, took out a whistle and blew. Then a large group of men in camouflage clothes came out of the hidden shacks and without a word started unloading the goods.
Shi Jin kept observing the men and noticed that there were traces of the military mannerisms in their demeanor. His heart jumped and he decisively turned his head away—jungle, unidentified cargo, that ambush on the way and probably military recipients… Gua Two’s task was obviously not a simple delivery. It’s better for him to act dumb than to step on somebody’s toes by being too nosy.
Gua Two saw Shi Jin’s movements out of the corner of his eye and his smile deepened.
The goods were unloaded quickly, and the dark green metal boxes were transported into the village one after another. In less than a quarter of an hour, the trucks were completely empty. Gua Two bid farewell to the skinny man and returned to the cab.
“Are you tired?” The man asked, getting into the driver’s seat and closing the door.
Shi Jin nodded: “Yeah.”
“Then sleep.” Gua Two started the truck and grabbed another cigarette, still without lighting it. “I will wake you up when it’s time.”
Shi Jin nodded again and glanced at the village hidden by the darkness. He leaned back in his seat. “You can smoke if you want. I’d rather breathe secondhand smoke than end up in a ditch because you are too sleepy.”
Gua Two scoffed: “If anyone here drives into a ditch, it will be you.” But he took out the lighter and lit his cigarette.
It took them another day of driving at full speed to return—on the morning of the next day, the convoy arrived at the orchard without any more accidents on the way.
Shi Jin spent past two days almost entirely inside the cab, eating what was in the portable fridge and sleeping in the passenger seat, so when he got out of the truck he was more dead than alive, forcing Gua Two to almost carry him to his room. He fell asleep as soon as he got into bed.
Shi Jin slept heavily and woke up at noon the next day with his stomach growling from hunger.
The dorm had its own canteen, so after Shi Jin washed his face and teeth, he went there. As soon as he passed through the door, he saw Gua Two, who was eating a bowl of noodles, and headed for his table.
Gua Two also noticed him, smiled and waved his hand enthusiastically.
Shi Jin sat across from him and asked in a feeble voice: “How can you be so full of energy so soon?”
“It’s you who are too weak, not like a young man at all.” Gua Two beckoned to the canteen worker and got a second bowl of noodles for Shi Jin. He looked up and down at Shi Jin’s figure and shook his head, clicking his tongue. “Although your chubby look is very cute, your physical condition is so poor it will hinder you at a crucial moment. You really need to work out.”
Shi Jin touched his stomach, which was two times smaller than when he transmigrated, knowing that his physical fitness was indeed a big problem. He remembered the eight-pack abs of his previous life, then picked up his chopsticks to stir the noodles vigorously and said with a voice full of determination: “Okay, then let’s work out!” I’ve lost most of my weight already, but it’s true I need to exercise.
Gua Two raised his eyebrows. He did not expect him to agree so easily. “If you’re sure, let’s start right now. The mango orchard is on the mountain farthest from the dormitory. After you finish eating, run ten laps around it.”
Plop, the noodles Shi Jin just picked up slipped from his chopsticks, falling back into the bowl and splashing him with soup.
The fit and muscular body can’t be developed in a day or two. Shi Jin gritted his teeth and, without needing supervision, kept running his laps up and down the mountain. His body quickly thinned down, he grew a little taller, and his clothing size dropped by one.
Gua Two leaned against the wall of the monitoring room and watched Shi Jin running from one screen into another. He sighed and said: “We’ve never had such a high-quality newcomer: he’s hardworking, observant, resilient, obedient, keeps his cool in a crisis, doesn’t ask questions he shouldn’t, not arrogant, sensible… If I hadn’t known his background, I would have thought that he was a cadet who ran away from a military academy.”
Lian Jun also glanced at the monitors. “Did you ask him about the things I wanted you to?”
“I asked.” It was unclear what Gua Two was thinking about, but his expression was strange, as if he wanted to both laugh and cry. “It was a coincidence that he was at our contact point and hidden base. According to him, when he first arrived at Y, he didn’t have enough money to stay in a hotel. After asking around, he heard that he could get into the park near the orchard without a ticket so he went there to stay the night, then noticed the bungalow while walking about.”
Seeing that house from the park, his eyes are really sharp.
Lian Jun put his hand on the wheelchair armrest and said, “Go on.”
Gua Two stifled a laugh and continued: “As for the mahjong parlor, he was there because he couldn’t find any other job, being underage and a high-school dropout. He thought his skills were good, so he decided to go to a mahjong hall to try his luck, but the big mahjong halls are strictly managed and wouldn’t hire someone turning up randomly and without any credentials. After investigating, he chose our small mahjong parlor since it seemed as if its boss was rather easy-going.”
Gua Three, who had been quietly standing on the side, couldn’t resist asking, “Then, when he kept wandering around our base…”
Gua Two finally smiled, replying, “He was trying to catch a pheasant. I heard that when Gua Four captured him, there was a pot of hot pheasant stew on the kitchen stove.”
Even someone as serious as Gua Three chuckled after hearing that. Finally, he sighed, “It looks like him and us really are connected by fate.”
“He said he was simply unlucky.” Gua Two remembered Shi Jin’s grievous expression as he’d talked about it, and couldn’t stop himself from laughing out loud.
Corners of Lian Jun’s mouth also rose slightly, but his smile was so imperceptible nobody noticed it. He stopped looking at the monitors, turned his wheelchair around and instructed, “When his physical condition is up to the standard, let Gua One teach him how to shoot and fight. After he’s ready, bring him to see me again.”
Let Gua One teach him? Gua One hasn’t trained any newcomers for a long time.
Gua Two and Gua Three exchanged a glance and nodded respectfully, acknowledging the order.
On the hill, sweaty Shi Jin stopped for a rest, putting his hands on his knees. He looked questioningly at the progress bar that unexpectedly dropped back to 700 points: “Why did it suddenly fall?” After he got back from the delivery mission, his progress bar slowly returned to 720, the same as it was after the call to Shi Weichong. Although it fell a little because of his improving physical fitness, it’s consistently hovered above 710.
Xiao Si was also puzzled. It guessed, <Maybe it’s because of Shi Weichong? Didn’t you warn him about his assistant when you called him?>
Shi Jin thought for a moment. He wiped his sweat and said, “Maybe you’re right. Forget it, I should continue running, I haven’t finished today’s workout yet.”
In the blink of an eye, a month passed. During this time, Shi Jin continued to go running every day and he finally managed to completely lose weight. After getting a few wide-eyed stares from the people living in the dorm, everyone gradually became accustomed to his newly acquired, tall and lean physique.
He followed Gua Two several times to help with “mango delivery”, each time to a different place, but they hadn’t been traveling as far away as during the first time, nor was he in danger again.
Right now, Shi Jin’s appearance was completely different from how it was when he’d been just reborn. His once exquisitely dyed and carefully styled curls have turned into neat, short, straight black hair and jade-white skin tanned to a healthy golden bronze. Without the layer of fat, his facial features became clear and handsome, with straight eyebrows and beautiful eyes, and because of his rosy lips and white teeth, he looked especially charming when he laughed.
Gua Two was stupefied—he hadn’t expected Shi Jin would look so “cute, handsome and innocent”. Now every time he teased him, the other party’s smile would make him smell a sweet milky scent.
After Shi Jin’s appearance changed, his progress bar dropped to 690, reaching the safety margin. Lian Jun’s progress bar also stopped rising, and after his upset stomach got better, it returned to 600.
Shi Jin had wondered about this until he heard Gua Three accidentally mention that Gua Four and Gua One had gone out on a mission together and were not in the orchard. Then, it became clear why Lian Jun’s progress bar stopped fluctuating.
He tried to ask Gua Two and Gua Three about Gua Four but became disappointed, because both of them were tight-lipped. He was afraid prying too much would make them suspicious, so he only got some superficial information, which was of little use.
Just like that, Shi Jin’s days unexpectedly became stable and carefree. He even felt that perhaps this quiet life would continue for years, but obviously, the calm was just an illusion. As long as the progress bar hadn’t disappeared, a safe and peaceful life was like the moon reflected on the lake—a moment of carelessness and it will be gone.
One morning, Shi Jin was suddenly awakened from his sleep by Xiao Si, who spoke in urgent tone: <JinJin, wake up! Both of your progress bars suddenly began to rise! Yours has gone up to 700, Darling’s to 750, and it’s still rising. There must be something wrong!>
Shi Jin immediately woke up, as if he was doused with ice water. He hurriedly jumped out of bed and went to the window to look outside. After a moment, he spotted moving car lights in the direction of the orchard gate. He quickly dressed and went out, running straight into Gua Two who just came out from the room opposite while talking on the phone.
“What happened?” Shi Jin asked promptly, seeing Gua Two’s face not looking good.
Gua Two frowned and said tersely, “The gate reported that Gua One and Gua Four came back, but Gua One was injured and has fallen into a coma. I’m going to see them.”
Gua Four is back?!
Shi Jin’s heart was tense. He looked at the two still rising progress bars in his mind and said, “I’m going with you.”
Gua Two nodded his agreement. Without further delay, he called the infirmary and quickly headed outside.
“(Young,) cute, handsome and innocent” – 小鲜肉, lit. “little fresh meat”. Coined by Chinese netizens, this term refers to a good-looking young male adult, who is nice and kind and has not been through many relationships. To qualify for the address, a young man needs to have good skin as well as six-pack abs. Usually, “小鲜肉” is used for young idols in the show biz, similar to the American slang term “hunk,” only this time around the hunk has a pretty face too (source link). I guess Shi Jin would look like one of these people.
每次都调侃他的笑容带着奶味 – I’ve no idea what it means and my translation probably doesn’t make any sense. Help, anyone?
“…like the moon reflected on the lake” – 镜中花水中月, lit. flower seen in the mirror, moon on the water’s surface, meaning something that is beautiful but unattainable. I think this idiom is quite easy to understand, so I kept it.
Freakin’ flowery descriptions… am I translating a romance novel or what? Oh wait, I am…
LOL, thankfully we will get some action soon.
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