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“You don’t? What do you eat, spring rolls? Or Tangyuan? No problem, I can do it.” Shi Jin pulled hard, exerting most of his energy, but at the moment, his physical condition was simply too poor to make Li Jiuzheng budge. In the end, he gave up and just hugged his brother’s arm, then turned his head towards Lian Jun. “Jun-shao, I want to take Fifth Brother back with us for the Spring Festival, but I can’t move him. Please help me drag him back.”
Li Jiuzheng’s frown deepened, and he pulled his arm away.
Lian Jun, who was already near, heard Shi Jin’s words and his face darkened. Ignoring Li Jiuzheng, he looked Shi Jin’s rather sorry figure up and down and motioned for Gua One, who was pushing his wheelchair, to stop. He gathered the blanket from his knees, shifted his legs, and actually stood up. Slowly, he walked two steps, until he was at arm’s length from Shi Jin. Then he stopped, reached out, and pulled the teenager into his arms.
Shi Jin: “!!!”
“I’ll deal with you later, just you wait.” Lian Jun’s expression was brooding, though one had to look hard to notice. He put Shi Jin’s head on his shoulder and used his other hand to bundle him in the blanket, then wrapped him tightly in his arms. Sending Li Jiuzheng an icy look, he turned around and walked with Shi Jin to the wheelchair.
Gua Two and the others had surrounded the area without anyone noticing. Now they rushed out and secured Li Jiuzheng, who hadn’t moved from the place.
Shi Jin let himself be led forward, still in Lian Jun’s embrace, breathing in the light scent of his body. He was completely dumbfounded.
“Lian Jun is walking! He’s walking!” He screamed in his mind.
Xiao Si was also going crazy: <Darling is taller than you! He’s actually taller than you! That’s so great!>
Shi Jin: “…”
He clung to Lian Jun’s clothes and ground out, “Xiao Si, what did you just say?”
The system started, then played possum. As Shi Jin was finally safe, it withdrew all the buffs it had added to him, including the ones shielding the pain and helping his body to move. It was time to let him rest.
So the next second, Shi Jin, who had been fiercely questioning Xiao Si, closed his eyes and abruptly crumpled in Lian Jun’s arms. He didn’t have time to even open his mouth.
Lian Jun staggered under the weight of the young man’s suddenly limp body, and hurriedly stabilized himself. He glanced down, only to find that Shi Jin fainted, and his lips tightened. He held him closer, then walked forward and carefully placed him in the empty wheelchair.
Gua One quickly stepped closer to help him. After they settled Shi Jin up, he noticed the sweat on Lian Jun’s forehead and his face pale from pain. “Jun-shao, you…” He began, worried.
“It’s nothing. Push the wheelchair,” Lian Jun interrupted him. His voice sounded as usual, however, his body was slightly bent; he was able to stay upright only because he supported himself on the wheelchair armrest. He reached to touch Shi Jin’s face, then looked over his shoulder at Li Jiuzheng and commanded, “Bring him back. Inform Shi Weichong that both his brothers have been found and tell him to go to Chengdu Military Hospital if he wants to find me.”
Gua Two acknowledged the order. He took out a gun and pointed it at Li Jiuzheng’s back, saying, “After you, Dr. Li.”
Li Jiuzheng glanced at him, then his eyes moved to Shi Jin, unconscious in the wheelchair, and Lian Jun, whose condition was obviously not good and still worsening. Composing himself, he obediently walked in the direction indicated by Gua Two.
Shi Jin once again woke up to the smell of antiseptics. He opened his eyes and looked around—oh, this time, there were four people at his bedside. He promptly turned his head away, trying to faint again.
“Are you awake?” Lian Jun’s voice sounded, quiet and cold.
Sure enough, here we go.
Shi Jin sighed and turned back. He looked at Lian Jun, who sat the closest to him, and squeezed out a flattering smile: “Jun-shao, you look really handsome when you walk. Broad shoulders, narrow waist, long legs—your figure is great. It’s just that you’re too thin and kinda bony to hug, you have to eat more…”
Lian Jun, expressionless, reached out and pinched his mouth. “You can talk so much, it seems you’re already fine,” he sneered.
Shi Jin felt cold sweat on his back. He closed his eyes and began to cough as if he was suffocating, trying to show exactly just how bad was he feeling at the moment. His acting was very exaggarated.
Uncle Long, who was standing by, couldn’t stand it any longer. He pushed Lian Jun’s hand away and examined Shi Jin’s condition. Then, he fed him water, admonishing, “Don’t toss about anymore or you’ll tear your wound open.”
Shi Jin promptly became well-behaved. He took a sip of water and his dry, itchy throat immediately felt much better. He looked at the two people standing further away and called out, “Big Brother, Fifth Brother…”
“Rest for now, we’ll talk later,” Shi Weichong said soothingly. He elbowed Li Jiuzheng, next to him, who was silent.
Li Jiuzheng glanced at Shi Jin, then said stiffly, “Sorry.”
Shi Weichong gave him a dissatisfied look.
The other man turned his head to avoid his eyes, looking like he didn’t want to talk any more.
Shi Weichong frowned and started to speak, but held his words back. He looked at Shi Jin withe the ‘I’ll give you an account later’ expression and dragged Li Jiuzheng out of the ward.
Shi Jin watched the whole thing with wide eyes.
Lian Jun reached the end of his patience. He pinched the teenager’s cheek and pulled him towards himself.
Shi Jin was forced to turn his gaze back on Lian Jun. Seeing his unsightly expression, he forgot about his brothers at once and attempted to explain himself: “I didn’t disobey your order, I was simply worried about you. That day, I was just going to take a look around the neighborhood, without getting involved. However, when I got there, I saw you were in danger and moved without thinking. I didn’t expect the sniper to target me. I called you right after getting shot, but I was muddled from pain and unfortunately dialed a wrong number…”
Lian Jun took his hand back, but didn’t speak and his face still looked bad.
“I’m sorry. I’ll take up any punishment you think suitable.” Shi Jin lowered his head. He looked pale and weak, and quite pitiful.
Lian Jun wanted to give him a dressing-down but couldn’t bear to, so he only looked at the younger man with a deep frown. Finally, he forced out, “When you do something wrong, you apologize very quickly yet every time, you turn around and act the same way again. Shi Jin, do you want me to lock you up?”
Shi Jin cleared his throat awkwardly. “Not every time…”
“Want me to jog your memory?” Lian Jun retorted.
What to do, my golden thigh is angry and seems to have lost his rationality.
Shi Jin shut his mouth and pulled his hand from under the quilt to grab Lian Jun’s, ready to fawn over him.
Lian Jun’s hand was on the armrest of the wheelchair, not far from the edge of the bed. However, Shi Jin had difficulty reaching it—he was too hungry to muster up any strength.
Lian Jun sat motionless, simply watching. When Shi Jin’s hand was shaking and about to drop, he finally took it, squeezing hard. “No next time.”
Shi Jin nodded, putting an obedient expression on his face, but his hand was most certainly not obedient. Ah, enough! He wriggled his body closer, put Lian Jun’s hand down, and gently pinched his leg. He asked with concern, “Do your legs hurt?”
Feeling the pinch, Lian Jun stiffened, and his expression that barely eased turned dark again. He picked up Shi Jin’s hand and stuffed it back under the quilt. “Continue to rest. You have to be under observation for a little longer before you can eat, so bear with it,” he said.
Eh? His mood was better, how did it suddenly become worse again?
Upset, Shi Jin called out, “Jun-shao, I…”
Lian Jun pinched his mouth closed once more, looking at him expressionlessly. “Shi Jin, if you can’t give me a response, don’t show interest with me/concern yourself with me—it’s not fair.” Retracting his hand, he motioned for Uncle Long to keep an eye on the patient, then turned his wheelchair around and left.
“时进，给不了回应就别乱释放关心，这不公平。” (I wanted this line to be ambigious, not sure if I succeeded…)
Shi Jin couldn’t understand his words. Perplexed, he looked up at Uncle Long, his eyes silently sending out a distress call.
Uncle Long gave his forehead a pat and said, “Don’t ask, just shut up and sleep.”
Uncle Long took out his phone, then put a pair of earphones in his ears and started listening to music.
Shi Jin: “…”
“Xiao Si, I think there’s a secret between Uncle Long and Lian Jun, but they don’t want to for me to know.” His first informant refused to cooperate so he had no choice but to fall back on the second, that is, his system.
Xiao Si played him a lullaby in his mind.
Shi Jin turned speechless from indignation. Then, still angry, he really fell asleep.
Upon waking up, Shi Jin found that the person sitting next to the bed changed, from Uncle Long to Shi Weichong.
Seeing him open his eyes, the man helped him to fix the bedding. He poured a glass of water, put in a straw and moved it close to his mouth, saying gently, “Drink some water first.”
Shi Jin took a sip, then looked around. “There’s nobody else here?”
“They’re busy with something else,” Shi Weichong replied. He put up the bed table, then picked up the food thermos on the bedside cabinet and took out a bowl of porridge and a few side dishes from it. “Eat a bit to pad your stomach. Tell me if you want to go to the bathroom, I’ll help you.”
Shi Jin was injured, but it was just a shoulder wound. Earlier, he had no strength because of fever. Now that the fever has subsided and he’d had a good night’s sleep, he regained most of his energy. “It’s fine. I’m not seriously hurt, I can go by myself.”
Shi Weichong pursed his lips, but said nothing. He helped him set the table and sat down beside the bed, saying, “Eat. Then, let’s have a talk.”
Shi Jin sighed inwardly when he saw his expression. Knowing this conversation was impossible to avoid, he resignedly picked up a spoon.
After eating his fill, the teenager’s complexion stopped being so pale. Seeing this, Shi Weichong’s face also looked a little better.
Shi Weichong got up and helped Shi Jin clear the table, then settled him back on the bed. After wrestling with something inwardly, he said, “Lian Jun told me how you got injured. You’re too reckless, Xiao Jin.”
Shi Jin acknowledged his mistakes: “I’m sorry, I made you worried.”
“No, you don’t have to apologize to me.” Shi Weichong helped him tuck in the quilt. After a moment of silence, he continued, “I’ve already talked to Jiuzheng, he promised not to find trouble with you anymore. It’s my negligence, I haven’t paid much attention to him lately. I didn’t realize his mother’s death had driven him into a dead end. And you… I’m not a good brother, Xiao Jin. It’s me who should apologize to you.”
Shi Jin frowned and called out, “Big brother.”
“I don’t deserve to be your big brother.” Shi Weichong looked down, a weary expression on his face. “You probably don’t know… Though Shi Xingrui abandoned our mothers, he gave them a large sum of money, used as funds to raise us and compensate them.”
Shocked, Shi Jin subconsciously sat up straight.
“It wasn’t just money—all of our mothers and families have benefited from Shi Xingrui’s resources to some degree. He invested in us like he invested in the business, and he wasn’t at all stingy… But that changed after you were born. When we discovered that Shi Xingrui had a tendency to tip all the resources to you, our mothers held a meeting in secret. At the behest of our respective mothers, we have learned to ‘cherish’ our youngest brother. Since then, Shi Xingrui began to allocate resources to our mothers based on how close you were to us… It was a deal, a deal based on tacit understanding. I, Yujing, and Zhouzhong knew, Aoting and Jiuzheng didn’t.”
Shi Jin stared at him in bewilderment. He never expected the secret behind everyone’s behavior was something like this.
Shi Weichong looked into his eyes intently as if to see a reflection of his own despicable and hypocritical self in them. His tone became somewhat difficult. “At first, we were children and simply did what our mothers told us to. When we grew older, everyone had their own ideas and pursuits, and they wanted to change this sick situation, but I stopped them.”
Shi Jin asked, “Why?”
“Because, in order to retaliate against Shi Xingrui, I needed to be on good terms with him… In my selfishness, my self-interest, I tied everyone up to my revenge. We treated you as a tool for approaching Shi Xingrui, and continued to play ‘good brothers.’”
As he spoke, Shi Weichong’s expression grew gloomy. He said, with a hint of self-derision, “We all could’ve been free a long time ago. The older Shi Xingrui got, the less ambitious he was. He practically stopped concerning himself with anything besides you, even his company. We grew up and acquired enough strength to stand on our own, not needing to fear or rely on Shi Xingrui’s power any longer. We could’ve easily broken away from living under his shadow, but I forced them to continue this play. There was no way this would end well. I bear most of the blame for Jiuzheng getting out of control. I’m overjoyed Shi Xingrui died before I made my move, otherwise, everyone would’ve been dragged into an even worse nightmare.”
Shi Jin’s heart missed a beat. “What were you going to do if Shi Xingrui hadn’t died?” He asked.
Shi Weichong looked him in the eye and enunciated: “Take away everything he had, trample him down into the dust, and destroy what he cherished most, so that he would live in pain for the rest of his life.”
‘What he cherished most’… Wasn’t that the original ‘Shi Jin?’
Shi Jin leaned back on the bed, staring at his brother in a daze. This was the first time he had a moment of such a clear realization—in front of him sat a murderer. Even if only a potential one, just planning murder./Even if it was still just premeditation of murder.
The man upon whom ‘Shi Jin’ looked as his big brother had in fact never regarded ‘him’ as a younger brother. Shi Jin had thought Shi Weichong used to simply dislike his youngest sibling, but apparently, it was nothing more than his wishful thinking.
“It’s true that Shi Qingrui did not treat you well and abandoned your mothers, so I can understand you want to take revenge on him, but the original… But what did I do wrong?” He asked, no longer acting, but genuinely sympathizing with ‘Shi Jin,’ feeling that all this was just too unfair to ‘him.’
The only thing the original ‘Shi Jin’ did was to be born, and it wasn’t of his own will. The worst crime ‘he’ committed in his short life was to contact Shi Xingrui’s old subordinates in order to make trouble for Shi Weichong.
‘He’ was not yet twenty years old when ‘he’ died. For the first seventeen years ‘he’ lived under the strict supervision of his father and didn’t do anything bad. The year of adulthood, ‘he’ lost his father, his face, his freedom, and made a cruel discovery his happy life until now was just a carefully crafted illusion. Barely an adult, ‘he’ lost even his life.
Though ‘he’ might’ve been spoiled, ignorant, and inconsiderate of his older brothers, and had some other faults, but was this truly something that required him to pay the price of his life? While ‘he’ wasn’t outstanding, ‘he’ wasn’t an awful younger brother either.
Faced with Shi Jin’s question, Shi Weichong fell silent again. Then he reached out to touch his cheek, and answered, “You didn’t do anything wrong, it was me who was wrong. I don’t deserve to be your big brother.”
Shi Jin avoided his hand—according to what he said, everything had been too self-serving and calculated, enough to completely subvert his understanding of the situation. He’d assumed the original ‘Shi Jin’s’ identity, and could not accept Shi Weichong’s concern right now.
Shi Weichong’s eyes dimmed, his hand slowly clenched and returned to his side. He got up and said, “Take a rest… I’ll have a talk with Jiuzheng, he won’t bother you again. If you choose not to recognize me as your brother any longer, I’ll respect your decision… I’m sorry, Xiao Jin.” He stopped in place for a moment, but didn’t get any response from Shi Jin, so he picked up the coat on the chair, turned and left.
After he left, Shi Jin looked at the door in a complex mood. It took him a while to recover, then he angrily kicked the chair and wrapped himself in the quilt, covering his face.
Xiao Si called out, anxiously, <JinJin…>
“I’m all right.” Shi Jin answered, his voice muffled. “In the end, I’m nothing more than an outsider who barged in and blunders around. This is a family dispute; in my position, I don’t have any right to judge… Xiao Si, perhaps too many things changed due to my intrusion. Was I too concerned about the progress bar?”
[声音闷闷的 – Stuffy or muffled? I think both fit here…]
<No,> Xiao Si objected. Seeing him this downcast, it couldn’t help but blame itself. <I’m sorry, JinJin, it was me who pulled you into this world…>
Shi Jin shook his head in silence and closed his eyes. He recalled everything he had experienced since he transmigrated, and let out a deep sigh.
Before long, Gua Two pushed the door and came in, replacing Shi Weichong as Shi Jin’s watcher.
Shi Jin chatted with him for a moment, and found out they were in Chengdu Military Hospital. The others had not come to see him until now because they were taking care of Lian Jun, who had also fallen ill.
Shi Jin’s brows knitted, and he sat up, intending to get out of bed. “How is he?” He asked anxiously. “I’ll go and see him.”
“Don’t, Jun-shao is already asleep. It’s just a cold and not enough rest. A drip and some sleep, and he’ll be fine.” Gua Two pushed him down, giving him a light slap on the forehead. “Just obediently stay in bed and heal. The year only began, don’t you think we’ve had enough excitement already? Get better quickly or Jun-shao will be beside himself with worry.”
Shi Jin lay down on the bed, filled with deep remorse for his mistakes. His face scrunched up. “I’m sorry, I won’t be so impulsive in the future.”
Gua Two saw his look, and didn’t have the heart to scold him again. He consoled him instead: “Actually, it’s fine, don’t think too much. If not for you, some of us must’ve gotten injured. Although Gua One parked the car so it’d block most of the snipers’ shots, there were enemies on the street. As long as they opened fire, we would never be able to avoid all of the bullets.”
“You don’t have to comfort me.” Shi Jin let out a sigh. He stared at the depressingly white ceiling and asked out of blue, “Gua Two, am I allowing my emotions to affect my judgement?”
Helpless, Gua Two pulled the quilt to cover the teenager’s face. “I said, stop thinking too much, you’re all good… Get well soon. Then, we’ll go and dig crabs on the island.”
Shi Jin thought he was being ridiculed. He pouted, flipped him off under the quilt, and closed his eyes.
After that day, Shi Jin never saw Shi Weichong.
According to Gua One, Shi Weichong was still in the hospital, and every day, he would go to the doctor responsible for Shi Jin to ask about his physical condition; Li Jiuzheng stayed here too. However, they never came to visit him again.
Shi Jin thought about all the twists and turns of the plot, looked at the progress bar that had dropped to 500, and didn’t try to find them.
The next day, Lian Jun felt a bit better, so he came to the ward to accompany Shi Jin. His complexion was fine, but his face looked almost gaunt again. Shi Jin was heartbroken; all his effort to put flesh on Lian Jun’s body was for naught..
Afraid that the long stay in the hospital would adversely affect Lian Jun’s health, Shi Jin actively cooperated with the treatment. Within a week, he was back on his feet, jumping around, and clamoring to be discharged.
Lian Jun forced him to stay in the hospital for seven days, allowing him to be discharged only after making sure there were no problems. Then, he was worried that Shi Jin’s freshly healed wound wouldn’t stand the flight, so he gave up returning by fast and convenient plane, got an RV, and prepared to drive back to B City.
On the morning of departure, Shi Jin bought a pile of dumplings, spring rolls, and other festive food, and sent it all to Li Jiuzheng’s private hospital. This was keeping his earlier promise.
In the afternoon, they boarded the RV at the hospital entrance. Idle, Shi Jin looked out of the window. From the corner of his eye, he saw Shi Weichong and Li Jiuzheng standing side by side in front of the fruit shop across the street, looking this way.
He hesitated for a moment, unsure of what to do. Finally, he waved at them, mouthed ‘Goodbye,’ then drew the curtain.
Really, he should’ve remembered he was not the original ‘Shi Jin’—why should he make a fuss about whether these brothers were putting on an act? He struggled along in this world, and all he asked for was to live well and eliminate the progress bars. Now that he determined the five brothers were unlikely to be the murderers of the original ‘Shi Jin,’ he didn’t need to care what their real feelings were. Though his hard-won survival factors were gone, they weren’t much anyway, and he had his golden thigh standing beside him.
With this in mind, his sight moved to Lian Jun, who sat opposite him, reading. He reached out and pressed the book down while taking out a tablet. “Jun-shao, let’s play a round. If I win, help me check something, okay?”
Lian Jun glanced at the hand stopping him from reading, his gaze pausing on the needle marks on its back. He lowered the book and looked at Shi Jin. “And if you lose?”
Shi Jin grinned, a little wickedly. “Then I’ll give you a massage every day. I’m telling you, I’m a master masseur, ordinary people can’t enjoy my skills!”
The real “master masseur,” Xiao Si: <Hmph.>
Lian Jun eyes Shi Jin. Then, to the teenager’s surprise, he really put the book down and said, “Fine.”
Smug, Shi Jin took out a second tablet, courteously opened the mahjong app, and stuffed it into his hands.
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