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A Couple’s Character Set
Over the next few days, Shi Jin scoured the files for someone who might’ve been Shi Xingrui’s “white moonlight” but found no clues. Lian Jun, on the other hand, was much more efficient—the evening of the day he spoke with Old Ghost, he finalized the personnel who would head to the southeast first. The departure was set to the morning two days later.
Gua Two and Gua Three would be the first to go with Old Ghost. Fei Yujing would temporarily stay, waiting to be contacted by the helpers sent by the government. In other words, the group of problematic people accompanying Lian Jun would comprise not only of Long Shi, but also a troublesome lawyer and several third wheels of unknown identity.
Shi Jin heard the news while lying on the bed subjected to Uncle Long’s excruciating physiotherapy. His face, distorted by a grimace of pain, was truly a sight to behold.
“So, Gua Two and the others are leaving tomorrow… Ow! Uncle Long, can you please press lighter…” Shi Jun couldn’t help but beg.
Uncle Long patted his stiff shoulders and said, expression callous, “You need to loosen up—the tenser you are, the more pain you feel. I can’t use less force or the massage will have no effect, and you feel it so much because your muscles are injured. You’re a man, how can you be so afraid of pain? Grit your teeth and endure, you will get better after two days.”
Shi Jin took a deep breath and forced himself to relax. He glanced at the frowning Lian Jun, sitting next to the massage bed. “Don’t watch me, Jun-shao—I must look pathetic right now.”
“Don’t talk, you’ll bite your tongue.” Lian Jun touched his sweaty forehead. Although he knew he shouldn’t, he still asked, “Uncle Long, are the massages necessary?”
Uncle Long made a face. “Jun-shao, it’s enough you refuse to cooperate with treatment, don’t try to corrupt Shi Jin too. Of course they’re necessary, or his muscles won’t heal properly and his recovery will take much longer. Let Shi Jin choose on his own—would he rather suffer a short time or continue lying in bed unable to move?”
“No, don’t stop, Uncle Long, don’t mind my whining,” Shi Jin hastened to change his stance. He took Lian Jun’s hand and squeezed it comfortingly, reassuring him, “I’m fine, don’t worry. You know I just can’t keep my mouth shut.”
Lian Jun continued to frown but said nothing more. He wiped Shi Jin’s sweat with a towel lying on the side then retreated a bit, motioning for Uncle Long to continue.
“Good boy. That’s right, if you cooperate, you’ll get better sooner.” The doctor’s expression eased. After he finished massaging Shi Jin’s back, he grabbed Shi Jin’s waistband and unceremoniously pulled his pajama pants down, exposing his underwear.
Shocked, Shi Jin bounced like a frog and twisted to stare at Uncle Long with incredulity.
Lian Jun’s hands on the wheelchair armrests twitched, eyes shifting slightly to the side.
“Why are you gaping at me? Don’t you know you need to get undressed for a massage?” Uncle Long returned his stare with a glare of his own then went around the bed to pull his pants completely off. Noticing the focus of Lian Jun’s gaze, he grunted, walked back, and patted Shi Jin’s thigh like pork at the butcher’s, praising, “You have a nice, perky butt, young man, your legs aren’t bad either.”
Fucking hell, Uncle Long, you act like a practiced old rogue.
Shi Jin couldn’t take it anymore. He turned to Lian Jun and said, voice cracking a bit, “Jun-shao, maybe you should leave…”
“I’ll get clean clothes, you should want a shower after the massage.” Lian Jun didn’t make things difficult. He moved his wheelchair around the hospital bed and left the ward without looking back.
Shi Jin’s mood suddenly became complex: he was a little lost, a little unwilling to let him go, and a little unconfident. He let out a quiet sigh. “Xiao Si, your Darling is the embodiment of politeness and chivalry…” He didn’t want to look at all…
Xiao Si did not answer. It was completely silent as if it didn’t exist at all.
Puzzled, Shi Jin called the system again: “Xiao Si?”
Xiao Si still didn’t say anything. It might as well have disappeared.
After a moment of pondering, Shi Jin recalled that Xiao Si hadn’t spoken since the day he and Lian Jun became a couple. Shocked, he jerked, instinctively wanting to get up, but Uncle Long pushed him down, rebuking, “What, a minute after kicking Jun-shao out, you change your mind? You miss him already? This isn’t a teen romance movie—lie down and don’t move, or I’ll take off your underwear too and let you wait for Jun-shao with a bare ass!”
He barely finished speaking when Xiao Si proved it was still there by letting out a piercing shriek: <Take it off!!! Uncle Long, I support!>
The painfully loud howl in his skull knocked Shi Jin back onto the bed. Feeling as if his head was splitting, he uttered weakly, “Xiao Si, you… you…” For a while, he didn’t know what to say.
The system fell silent again and didn’t answer.
Cowed by Uncle Long’s threat, Shi Jin didn’t dare to make any big movements, so he only covered his face with his hands. He recalled a certain painful experience during Lian Jun’s birthday and said, preparing for the worst, “Xiao Si, I’m sorry.”
Xiao Si still didn’t say anything, but intuition told Shi Jin it was listening.
“I know you deeply love your Darling—now you must feel like I stole him, and hate it. You have every right to be angry with me.”
Xiao Si: <……>
“You can swear at me and shock me with electricity, and I won’t say you’re noisy anymore even if you cry a lot,” Shi Jin said bravely. To coax his system, he was willing to suffer!
Xiao Si: <…………>
Since it still didn’t speak, Shi Jin closed his eyes, gritted his teeth, and said with difficulty, “If you still won’t forgive me, then the only thing I can do is break up with your Darling—”
<Ah ah ah ah aaaaaaaaaahhhh! I won’t allow it!> Xiao Si interrupted, screeching like a banshee.
Shi Jin pressed his temples, both hurting and happy—judging from the scream’s intensity, his system seemed completely fine.
He was relieved, but Xiao Si was going crazy. After it screamed, it burst into heartbreaking sobs, interspersed with pitiful, inarticulate blubbers: <First you have an affair with Darling and now you want to abandon him,> and <JinJin, how did you become such a JinJin?> and <I won’t allow it, Dad doesn’t allow it! My child wouldn’t do something like that!>
Shi Jin listened for a while and felt he was on the verge of going crazy too. “Don’t cry, my head hurts. I’m sorry, I was wrong. I was just scaring you—I was worried something happened to you. I don’t want to abandon your Darling, I promise.”
Xiao Si cried harder then choked out, <Re-really?>
“Cross my heart and hope to die! If I lied, I will immediately become a eunuch!” Shi Jin swore.
Xiao Si screamed again and finally stopped crying. After a moment, it whispered, <I will forgive you if you satisfy my wish.>
Shi Jin obediently gave the expected reply: “What wish? Tell me.”
Xiao Si said quickly, <Monkeys I wanna see monkeys!>
Shi Jin tugged his ear: “Come again?”
<I wanna see you and Darling make little monkeys!> Xiao Si answered, impassioned!
Shi Jin fell silent—these remarks sounded quite familiar. He rummaged through his memory, carefully examining the times when he heard them, and found he seemed to have a bit of a misunderstanding about the system in his brain. His expression instantly became indifferent. “Oh. Then continue to cry.”
Shi Jin had felt a little sorry for the system, yet it turned out it had long had impure thoughts! He felt cheated!
Xiao Si choked and began to cry again.
Shi Jin ignored it coldly, gnashing his teeth—crying? Then cry, cry harder, maybe the tears will cleanse your dirty mind!
Xiao Si heard his inner voice and was overwhelmed with grief. The intensity of its wails immediately grew.
After such physical (massage) and mental (Xiao Si’s crying attack) torture, Shi Jin laid weakly on the bed wearing only a pair of underwear, feeling he was about to breathe his last and despising the whole world.
When Uncle Long finished the massage, he didn’t even cover Shi Jin with a blanket but simply left, like a heartless scumbag after he got what he wanted.
So, when Lian Jun returned with clean pajamas, what greeted him was the sight of Shi Jin sprawled bonelessly on the hospital bed, “proudly” presenting his almost naked flesh.
His hands pushing the wheelchair wheels froze. His gaze quickly swept over Shi Jin’s body, then he looked away. He came closer and pulled the blanket over the teenager, asking kindly, “Do you want to take a shower?”
Shi Jin gave him a sideways glance, comparing him with the Demon Lord, Uncle Long, and Xiao Si, the God of Crying. He couldn’t help but feel the warm, gentle Lian Jun gave off a holy light. He determinedly climbed to his knees, threw his arms around Lian Jun’s neck, and put his head on his shoulder.
In this cold and cruel world, only this embrace could bring him a trace of warmth.
The blanket slipped off, revealing Shi Jin’s bare body. Lian Jun hurriedly hugged him and asked, stroking his back, “What’s wrong, does it still hurt? Maybe a bath will be better.”
Xiao Si: <—Hiccup.>
Shi Jin: “……”
If Shi Jin had heard this sound before, he would have foolishly thought Xiao Si had indeed only hiccuped. However, now that he was aware of some of the system’s hidden thoughts, he knew it must’ve been “stimulated” by something.
He glanced down, looking at his bare body’s lack of distance to Lian Jun’s. He made a depressing discovery—it wouldn’t be Fei Yujing and the official third wheels who would be an impediment to his romance, but Xiao Si, his own 24-hours online system.
Just imagine it: in the future, when he wanted to be intimate with Lian Jun, they would barely touch or hug, and the duck calls would start echoing in his brain…
Xiao Si screamed with indignation, <How can you think so, JinJin?! I’m a system of the highest integrity!>
Shi Jin’s face held no expression. “A system of the highest integrity who spies on my thoughts?”
Xiao Si was left at a momentary loss of words. Finally, it gritted its metaphorical teeth and said reluctantly, <If, if you really mind my presence, then, then I’ll teach you how to temporarily shield against me. It’s very simple—you just need to focus on your and Darling’s progress bars and imagine “turning them off,” making them semi-active. Then, I won’t be able to perceive what’s happening outside. However, you’d best use it with care, because the bars won’t update in real-time, so you might not know you’re in danger. I can’t cancel this state by myself, either, and I’ll have to wait for you to “activate” the progress bars again. Only after you do will everything return to normal.>
Shi Jin was taken aback—he was only teasing Xiao Si, who knew this would be what he got out of it? He couldn’t help but try it out.
The progress bars flickered, turned grey, and the world fell quiet.
Huh, for real?
Shi Jin quickly activated them again and was about to express his surprise to Xiao Si when he heard the system’s muffled sobs. It cried, aggrieved, <Waaah, you really don’t want me, JinJin, waaaaaaaah…>
Shi Jin’s heart softened, and he began to coax the “crying child.”
A person and a system communicated happily in their minds, for a while completely forgetting about Lian Jun, who waited to take Shi Jin to the bathroom. The older man didn’t get an answer for a while; puzzled, he withdrew a bit to look at Shi Jin’s face and found the teenager was lost in his thoughts, changing expressions all the time and apparently having a great time all by himself.
Lian Jun: “……”
Shi Jin noticed his gaze and sat back, focusing on reality again. Still thinking about Xiao Si, he couldn’t help but say, “Jun-shao, actually, I have a son for us… uh, or maybe a daughter. It’s a very cute child. I’ll introduce them to you when there’s a chance.”
Xiao Si quacked again, this time in pleasant surprise. Bashful, it whispered, <Cu-cute? I’m not, do-don’t make me blush, JinJin. I’m gender-neutral, neither male nor female, so whichever is fine, but… If possible, I’d rather be your father, and for you to call me “Daddy”…>
Shi Jin said promptly, smiling at Lian Jun: “I was just kidding. So, about that shower?”
Xiao Si: <……>
Lian Jun: “……”
After taking Shi Jin, suspected of having a temporary drop to his IQ because of the torturous massage, to the bathroom, Lian Jun rang for a nurse to change the bedding.
Once she left, he recalled Shi Jin’s “son or daughter,” and couldn’t help but glance at Shi Jin’s various belongings.
“A son, or a daughter”—was there anything… His gaze swept around the hospital ward, finally settling on the tablet.
Since Shi Jin was recovering, there wasn’t much he could do every day—basically, nothing more than eating, sleeping, playing mahjong, and poring over Shi Xingrui’s information. Lian Jun thought for a moment. He picked up the tablet, quickly browsed through its contents, and touched the mahjong app icon.
When the game launched, it opened to the character page. Lian Jun discovered Shi Jin’s avatar was no longer the basic character, but an adorable puppet with a small pet curled at its feet. It seemed newly purchased.
His heart skipped a beat. He logged into the account Shi Jin made for him.
His own character had changed too: now it was also a puppet, only slightly different in style from Shi Jin’s, and another pet sat by its legs.
These characters were obviously a set—a couple’s character set.
Lian Jun felt something stir in his chest. He switched the accounts back and forth several times, then called for somebody to bring him a second tablet and logged in separately. He put the tablets together, looking at the characters side by side.
Lovers’ character set, the two pets, a son or maybe a daughter… Lian Jun covered the lower half of his face with his hand. He stared at the two pages, spellbound, until the sound of running water in the bathroom stopped, then hurriedly closed the app and put Shi Jin’s tablet back on the bedside cabinet.
Since Shi Jin said he would introduce his “child” to him “when there’s a chance,” he would respect his choice and pretend he didn’t know anything.
He was in quite a good mood.
When Shi Jin came out of the bathroom, he found the expression in Lian Jun’s eyes was a bit strange: profound, indescribably tender, and somewhat excited. His heartbeat sped up, but he pretended to be calm. “Is something wrong?”
Lian Jun shook his head. Taking his hand, he said, “I just feel I’m not fair to you… I can’t give you a lot of things ordinary people can give to their lovers.”
The word “lover” prodded Shi Jin’s heart. He immediately squeezed Lian Jun’s hand and refuted, “How exactly aren’t you fair to me? You provide me with food, housing, and clothes, pay me a salary and give me work bonuses. When I’m sick, you even personally take care of me—you call this ‘not being fair’? As for what ‘ordinary people give to their lovers’—you mean dating? Going out for a movie and such stuff? I don’t care about that. We’re together every day; if you want, every meal can be our date. And you always give me anything I want. For example, the information you checked for me—what ‘ordinary man’ could give me this?”
“Sophistry,” Lian Jun accused, but the smile on his face widened, and his pale complexion looked much rosier.
Seeing him like this, Shi Jin couldn’t help but smile too. He was still savoring the word “lover.” He felt the world was truly wonderful—he was the person Lian Jun called “lover.”
If you’re seeing this notice, you’re reading this chapter on pirate site – the original translator of Death Progress Bar is Betwixted Translations.
Shi Jin, who had slept through a large part of the day, woke up in the dead of night and found he couldn’t fall asleep again. Finally resigning himself to the inevitable, he opened his eyes and sat up. His thoughts began to wander aimlessly. He glanced at Lian Jun, who slept on the foldable bed on one side, and poked Xiao Si.
“Hey, actually… Why did Lian Jun suddenly kiss me that day? Did he like me already back then? Since when?”
Every time, the way his brain worked caught Xiao Si off guard. It said, voice dry as dust, <JinJin, you and Darling have already kissed, hugged, whispered promises and sweet nothings, you even bought the lovers’ character set in your favorite game, and only now you’re wondering about this? Don’t you think it’s a bit late?>
Its words made Shi Jin feel awkward, but he was thick-faced enough to say, “I was still in shock, I’m only coming out of it now… And Lian Jun is such a fine man, why would he ever fall for me…”
<JinJin, you’re a fine man too.> Xiao Si was not going to let him have any uncertain thoughts about this relationship! Never!
It made him feel shameless, but Shi Jin admitted the system wasn’t wrong.
He gingerly climbed down from his bed and approached the folding bed. He crouched down beside it to watch Lian Jun’s sleeping face, feeling as if he was still dreaming. “He actually likes me, it’s incredible.”
Xiao Si redoubled its efforts: <I think Darling liked you since the very beginning. He never treated you the same as the others, haven’t you noticed?>
Shi Jin thought back and realized this was indeed true. While it wasn’t glaringly obvious, he couldn’t deny Lian Jun had been more indulgent toward him than his other subordinates.
Instantly, he felt as if his heart was filled with warm honey, sweet beyond belief. He couldn’t help but stand, lift the corner of Lian Jun’s comforter, and squeeze his not-so-small body onto the narrow single bed, and hugged Lian Jun like a cuddly bear.
Xiao Si: <……>
“Now I can sleep.” He wriggled to the edge of the bed to give Lian Jun more space and closed his eyes, content.
Lian Jun never budged the whole time as if Shi Jin’s not-so-stealthy movements hadn’t disturbed him at all.
Shi Jin couldn’t help but open his eyes again and watch Lian Jun for a while longer. He sneaked a kiss on the corner of his mouth and murmured, “Goodnight,” then closed his eyes once more.
A while later, when the breathing of the person next to him deepened with sleep and the arms hugging him relaxed, Lian Jun slowly opened his eyes. He reached out to embrace Shi Jin, pulling him from the edge of the bed to the middle, and gently stroked his back.
“Silly boy,” he whispered, his almost inaudible voice overflowing with satisfaction and happiness. “Goodnight and sweet dreams.”
When Shi Jin woke the next morning, he was alone on the folding bed and the room was empty. Lian Jun had left at some point.
He sat up and blinked for a while, confuse. Abruptly, as if a switch was flipped, he threw the comforter off, struggled out of the folding bed, and rushed back to his own. He picked up the tablet and frantically skimmed through the information on Shi Xingrui.
Xiao Si, shocked by his sudden actions, asked, <What happened?>
“I think I’ve got a clue!” Shi Jin answered excitedly as he flipped through the data. “If you like someone, how could you bear not seeing that person, not being with them? With Shi Xingrui’s personality, if he loved someone deeply, even if the person he loved didn’t love him, he would surely tie them to his side by any means. So, there can only be one reason why I can’t find any such person—he had no idea where he or she was! He might’ve not even known their name!”
The system was puzzled. <But if he didn’t even know that person’s name, how could he fall in love with them?>
“It was still before the invention of mobile phones and the popularization of the internet. In that era, the only long-distance communication there was were letters. It was a way of making friends that has almost completely disappeared now—pen pals! They didn’t need to meet or know each other’s real names, they simply exchanged letters, completely anonymous if they wished, like today’s internet chat! Have you heard about online relationships? Perhaps even someone like Shi Xingrui, who didn’t reveal his inner thoughts easily, had someone he could bare his heart to.”
Xiao Si was even more baffled. <Is it really possible to fall in love just by exchanging letters?>
“Don’t underestimate the charm of words,” Shi Jin answered. His hand slowed, and his eyes grew brighter and brighter. Suddenly, he slapped the tablet, exclaiming, “This is it! Shi Xingrui submitted pieces of writing to a newspaper since he was in elementary school; every now and then, it earned him a bit of money so he could contribute financially to his family too. He started with essays, then, as he grew older, it became short stories and poetry. In most families with such children, there will be a lot of letters and correspondence records, but there’s no mention of it in the data! That proves Shi Xingrui deliberately erased this information!”
Finally understanding, Xiao Si became equally thrilled. <So if you find out who Shi Xingrui used to write, you will be able to find his “white moonlight”?>
“Very likely!” Shi Jin was so excited he couldn’t help but clutch the tablet and run out of the ward, eager to share his new findings with Lian Jun.
“White moonlight” [白月光] – the so-called “white moonlight” is someone unforgettable and forever unreachable, someone you love but can’t have (often the first love). This person is forever depicted as the ideal lover in your heart who can do no wrong. It doesn’t mean he or she really is like this, only that you think about them that way. (courtesy of azure_sea’s post)
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