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Lian Jun raised his head and looked at Shi Jin without a word.
Extremely embarrassed, Shi Jin quickly covered his mouth. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to. Do you want to change the table?”
“No need.” Lian Jun moved his own soup away, saying tonelessly: “People who litter need to pick up their own trash. Don’t waste food.”
Shi Jin: “…”
And so, lunch or dinner—Shi Jin wasn’t sure—continued. He kept fidgeting, now and then trying to sneak a look at Lian Jun’s tablet. Finally, he couldn’t resist, stealthily pulled out his own phone and opened the microblogging app.
With Rong Zhouzhong’s popularity, Shi Jin did not have to search hard. He just opened the main page and the post pinned to the top was ‘Rong Zhouzhong is looking for a young dancer’.
Panicking wouldn’t do him any good. He asked in his mind, “Do you think Rong Zhouzhong recognized me?”
Xiao Si hadn’t expected Rong Zhouzhong would get involved in this matter. It answered hesitantly: <He shouldn’t have, after all, your appearance changed so much. Besides, your progress bar hasn’t risen, it’s still at 770.>
Shi Jin was slightly relieved—the progress bar wouldn’t lie; if it wasn’t going up, things should still be fine. However, if Rong Zhouzhong hadn’t recognized him, why did he post this? Was it just to help Long Shi to get back at him by inciting netizens?
…What a way to be petty.
Shi Jin turned off his phone and put it away, then, like a student who was playing during the class, he instinctively looked up to check if the “teacher” Lian Jun noticed.
Lian Jun was looking straight at him with an expressionless face.
Shi Jin froze. “Uh…”
“Tell me about Rong Zhouzhong.” Lian Jun put down his spoon and assumed a posture indicating this was going to be a long conversation. “You said you wanted to follow me and I agreed. In the beginning, I haven’t asked you too much about your personal affairs because you weren’t allowed into my inner circle then but now that you’re close to me, I think it’s necessary for me to have more information. Gua Two said you were clearly trying to avoid Long Shi yesterday, why?”
Shi Jin was slightly taken aback, but he promptly put his chopsticks down. In fact, he had wanted to let Lian Jun know more about his situation since a while ago, so he explained honestly: “Because Long Shi’s employer is my third brother, Rong Zhouzhong. Besides him, I have another four brothers. The eldest, Shi Weichong, you already know about, the remaining three are second brother Fei Yujing, fourth brother Xiang Aoting, and fifth brother Li Jiuzheng. I’m hiding from all of them.”
Lian Jun sat up straight and asked, “Fei Yujing, do you mean that lawyer Fei Yujing?”
Shi Jin nodded.
“Li Jiuzheng—if I remember correctly, Elder Sun’s last, beloved disciple is called Li Jiuzheng, and he’s an extremely talented doctor.”
Shi Jin nodded again.
“As for Xiang Aoting…” Lian Jun started to tap on the table and frowned slightly. It seemed he wasn’t aware of any important people called by that name.
Shi Jin said somewhat guiltily, “He’s a pilot… um, a fighter pilot. In the military.”
Lian Jun’s finger stopped tapping. He gave Shi Jin a deep look.
Shi Jin lowered his head silently.
“Each of them is troublesome,” finished Shi Jin.
“Do they really want you to die?” Lian Jun asked.
Shi Jin nodded hard, touching the scars from self-inflicted cuts on his wrist.
The dining room fell quiet. After a long while, Lian Jun reached out his hand and pressed the call bell beside him. The cucumber feast was taken away and Shi Jin was served a bowl of clear soup with noodles.
“Eat it,” said Lian Jun succinctly.
Shi Jin couldn’t fathom his thoughts. He obediently picked up his chopsticks and whispered, “Jun-shao, I know my family situation is complicated, but you can rest assured that I will handle it carefully and try not to cause any trouble for you…”
“Simply your presence is a problem,” interrupted him Lian Jun. He took a look at Shi Jin, gave him two more poached eggs and said, “I will deal with the microblogging business. You haven’t been out much lately… Had Rong Zhouzhong recognized you?”
Shi Jin shook his head, looked at the poached eggs, then turned his gaze to Lian Jun, saying tearfully: “Jun-shao, you are being so nice to me…”
Lian Jun looked away, answering coldly, “Don’t make that expression while you have that ugly mess on your head, disgusting.”
Shi Jin: “…”
The effect of the post was not to be underestimated. Rong Zhouzhong popularity was so high that only a few hours later, his followers managed to ferret out more than a dozen videos from the bar, taken by different people from different angles. Some were blurry or filmed from too far away, but there were a few that managed to capture Shi Jin’s whole face clearly enough to let people recognize him on street.
Shi Jin hated he couldn’t go back in time to yesterday’s evening and strangle himself to death before he managed to get up on the dance floor.
“If this goes on, I’m afraid it will be only a matter of time before Rong Zhouzhong recognizes me.” Shi Jin’s heart sank.
Xiao Si tried to comfort him, but it was of no use, he couldn’t really fool himself. Although getting fatter or thinner will make a person look different, it was not plastic surgery—the facial features will not change too much. Besides, before adolescence, Shi Jin was only slightly chubby and if somebody compared the current photos with the ones from back then, it wouldn’t be difficult to recognize him.
“Not good, I have to change my appearance or I won’t be able to go out in the future!” Shi Jin suddenly stood up and strode outside.
Xiao Si was startled. <JinJin, how do you want to change it? Are you going to have plastic surgery?>
“No, it’s too painful.” Shi Jin shook his head, then lifted a hand and resentfully pulled at his permed curls. “It’s all because of this stupid hair, I’m going to shave it away!”
Xiao Si: <…What?>
When Lian Jun saw Shi Jin again at dinner, the teenager’s head was smooth and shiny.
Lian Jun put down his chopsticks, his expression blank. “What happened to you?”
“You said my hair is ugly, so I shaved it, haha.” Shi Jin touched his bald head and let out a foolish laugh.
It turns out that good-looking people would still be good-looking even if they shaved their heads. What’s more, without the hair, Shi Jin’s face appeared smaller and more childlike. It was especially noticeable when he laughed, just like now.
Lian Jun stared at him for a few seconds, then raised his hand and kneaded his forehead hard.
“Is something wrong?” Shi Jin asked with a silly expression.
Lian Jun glanced at him again, motioned him to start eating, and picked up his chopsticks. He said, “Rong Zhouzhong has deleted his post and said the whole thing was just a joke, the dancer in the video is actually someone he knows.”
Shi Jin cried out, “What?! Did he recognize me?”
“He didn’t, it was because someone interfered. I asked Gua Two to inform the government officials and make them contact Rong Zhouzhong. They told him you were an undercover agent sent to approach Xu Huai and they’d rather Rong Zhouzhong did not publicize what you look like, so he cooperated and deleted his post,” explained Lian Jun.
“Oh, so it was like that…” Shi Jin calmed down. He noticed a bowl of soup in front of Lian Jun and immediately praised him like he would a well-behaved child, “Jun-shao, you’re drinking soup again today. That’s great, you’re not picky anymore!”
Hearing these words, Lian Jun immediately rang the call bell and asked to be served a soft-boiled egg. Then, staring at Shi Jin all the while, he brutally sliced the top off, making the yolk flow out.
Shi Jin felt a chill down his spine. Knowing his attempt at flattery not only failed badly but even seemed to have an opposite effect, he bowed his head silently and pretended to be engrossed in eating dinner.
In the blink of an eye, another two weeks have passed. Thanks to Lian Jun’s behind-the-scenes manipulation, Shi Jin’s dance video quickly became forgotten, quietly disappearing in the depths of the internet. Shi Jin’s tense nerves relaxed a little and he stopped worrying day and night about his brothers recognizing him.
During that time, the people from the government confirmed Xu Huai was the information seller. Not long after, Xu Huai had been suddenly captured by unknown people, stuffed into a sack and beaten black and blue. Then, to top it off, he was stripped naked and left at the entrance of Zero Degrees Bar, becoming a public laughingstock.
Later, Xu Huai, who had recovered from his injuries, left the city in order to change the scenery and disappeared completely, never to be seen again.
At the same time, the news about a cruise ship accident, in which several domestic and foreign tourists lost their lives, caused a small ripple and then were quickly forgotten.
Before Shi Jin knew it, the first snow of the early winter has fallen. He wrapped himself up tightly in a scarf, put on a winter hat and went out shopping with Gua Two.
“Are we really going to spend the winter in B City?” Shi Jin asked, his voice muffled by the scarf.
Gua Two’s neck was bare. He glanced disdainfully at bundled up Shi Jin, answering, “Originally, we planned to spend the winter on M Island, but there were some matters on the government’s side and they requested Jun-shao to stay here for a while longer, so we have no choice but to stay.”
Shi Jin nodded his understanding and asked, “What are we going out to buy? Isn’t there someone in the club responsible for shopping?”
“You will know when we get there.” Gua Two apparently wanted to keep him guessing. Shi Jin let out a disgruntled snort and got into the car with him.
They headed for the nearest shopping mall. Bored, Shi Jin reached out to play with fog on the car window.
When they were almost at their destination, Xiao Si abruptly cried out.
Shi Jin was startled and his fingers slipped, making him almost slam his head on the door. He managed to grab the handle and straighten himself, then asked, “What’s wrong?”
<Jin Jin, your progress bar suddenly jumped up to 870! It just rose without any warning!> Xiao Si’s voice became high-pitched from panic.
Shi Jin looked at his progress bar in shock. After repeatedly confirming that he wasn’t seeing things, he became dumbfounded. “Just what happened? How could it suddenly rise so much?!”
Xiao Si was also confused and answered shrilly, <I don’t know either!>
Shi Jin looked around quickly—right now, he was riding a car and hadn’t done anything, if the progress bar suddenly skyrocketed, it means something dangerous must have appeared nearby! And in the middle of B City, what could cause danger for him except for his brothers?!
“What are you doing?” Gua Two saw him wriggling in his seat in a very strange way, apparently to look outside. He smiled and stopped the car, calling out, “We’re here, get out of the car. Jun-shao is waiting for us to come back, so let’s make it quick.”
Shi Jin could see nothing but other cars. Slowly, his sight focused on the shopping mall not far away. He hesitated for a moment, then tightly grabbed the door handle and said firmly, “No, let’s go back right now, I have to piss.”
Gua Two stepped out of the car and gave him a sideways look, then reached to take Shi Jin’s winter hat off, exposing the short stubble on his head. He mocked, “I don’t think you have to piss, I just think your noggin is itching. Now get out.”
Shi Jin still refused.
This led them to have a fierce dispute. Shi Jin was determined not to get out of the car but wasn’t able to give a clear reason why, and Gua Two kept insisting they go to the mall and spend at least two hours there or they won’t be allowed to come back.
While they were making a ruckus, someone suddenly appeared beside the car, reached for the passenger’s door handle, gently pulled it open, and then a familiar voice rang out from inside: “Give it a rest already, I—”
Xiao Si screamed wildly and Shi Jin stiffened. Gua Two looked at the intruder with a frown.
Outside the car, the words on Shi Weichong’s tongue abruptly died out. His sight slowly fell on Shi Jin, who was being pulled by Gua Two, swept over his face and focused on the little mole on his nose. Then, a storm began to brew in his eyes and he uttered coldly, “Shi Jin, you really know how to hide.”
Shi Jin: “…” Fucking hell!
“Last, beloved disciple” [关门弟子] – wuxia and xianxia readers, you know this one – it means ‘closing-door disciple’ or ‘inheritance disciple’: the last person a master would personally teach, and the one who would inherit all his knowledge, basically the successor.
This lil’ cliffie at the end is why I decided to release two chapters. I didn’t want to leave you hanging, my little pumpkins~╰(*´︶`*)╯♡
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