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Shi Jin soon threw Shi Weichong’s episode out of mind. He dumped the documents his brother left behind into a bathtub filled with water, making them nothing but a pile of waste paper.
Three days later, the official liaisons arrived. There were three in total, two men and a woman. The woman, who was in her fifties and had a kindly grandmother look, was sent to help Old Ghost and Fei Yujing search for the missing Phantom members. Her name was Wen Baozhu, and she was a lawyer of high repute.
She and Fei Yujing clearly knew each other: when the two groups met, she took the initiative to greet him and called him by name without honorifics. Her attitude was very familiar.
Fei Yujing faced her with a polite and respectful manner. He deferentially called her “Teacher Wen” and personally briefed her about the situation. He couldn’t have been more considerate and thoughtful.
Because it was a general meeting, Shi Jin was also there. As he watched Fei Yujing play a sweet, lovable junior in front of Wen Baozhu, he thought about the man’s usual ‘All of you can get lost, I only care about what can benefit me’ attitude and shuddered, rubbing the goosebumps on his arms.
Do all the descendants of the Shi family get strange skills, like changing faces in the Sichuan opera, or Oscar-winning level acting, or bullshiting someone into believing anything, and so on?
“Are you cold?” Lian Jun asked attentively, noticing his movements.
Shi Jin shook his head. He stopped paying attention to Fei Yujing and Wen Baozhu, flipping through the documents in front of him instead. “The government liaisons are already here—when do we leave for the Southeast?”
Lian Jun closed the file back. “In three days at the earliest. They need to organize the details and establish contact with the southeast side, so there will be some delay.”
Shi Jin nodded his understanding, quite satisfied with this schedule. “That’s very good—by then, I should be well enough to accompany you.”
Lian Jun looked at him as if he was a fool and reached over to hold his hand. We’re going to a dangerous place, how can you be happy because of this, silly?
In the next three days, Shi Jin actively cooperated with the treatment much more than before and finally succeeded in getting a clean bill of health from Uncle Long on the day of their departure.
Aboard the plane, he saw Long Shi.
The man’s hair had been shaved short, his face was a bit gaunt, and he wore the simplest casual clothes. He would’ve looked inconspicuous if not for the black metal choker around his throat.
Perhaps feeling Shi Jin’s gaze, Long Shi, whose head was lowered until now, suddenly looked up. His expression was indescribably ferocious.
Xiao Si exclaimed angrily, <JinJin, your progress bar went up—Long Shi wants to kill you since the moment he saw you!>
Shi Jin glanced at his bar, which jumped to 550, and his eyebrows rose. He returned Long Shi’s stare, then bared his teeth and raised his hands, fingers forming a strange small shape by the edge of his ears.
Long Shi’s expression changed—apparently, he recalled a bad memory. Hate and fear in his eyes, he couldn’t help but turn to Gua One, who walked beside him: “Why don’t you believe me? Shi Jin is a monster, he will eat you sooner or later!”
He might’ve as well not bothered because Gua One treated him like air.
Refusing to be ignored, Long Shi pulled the sleeve of a man passing by and said earnestly, “Shi Jin really is a monster, don’t be confused by his fake human form! Kill him before he kills you!”
The person he grabbed happened to be Fei Yujing. The lawyer gave him a sideways glance, his eyes behind the glasses’ lenses indifferent. He pushed Long Shi’s hand off with his briefcase, patted his sleeve, and strode away.
Being treated as something dirty, Long Shi’s face distorted. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the person sitting next to Shi Jin was Lian Jun and couldn’t control his emotions any longer. He screamed, “Jun-shao! Shi Jin will harm you, I’m the only one who is good for you, only me, Jun-shao… Mmph!”
Gua One grabbed his mouth and gave him a shot of anesthetic. Finally, blissful silence fell.
Since it was a specially chartered plane with only the insiders on board, no one objected to Gua One’s actions. Everyone looked as if what had just happened was nothing out of ordinary. Even Wen Baozhu, who appeared the kindest and the most likely to say something, just frowned and didn’t rashly open her mouth.
The excitement over, Shi Jin sat back in his seat. As his progress bar dropped back to 500, he insincerely sighed over Long Shi’s intrepidity, then turned to Lian Jun and asked deliberately, “Jun-shao, what if I really am a monster? Aren’t you afraid I will eat you?”
Lian Jun was looking through the information and didn’t even lift his head to answer his question, only stretched out his arm. “If you want to eat, then eat.”
Grinning, Shi Jin grabbed his wrist and gave it a playful bite then leaned over to read the information with him.
Since they never had any intention of hiding from the others’ eyes, both the three liaisons and Fei Yujing noticed the unusual intimacy between them. The officials were slightly surprised, obviously not expecting Shi Jin and Lian Jun to be in such a relationship. Fei Yujing appeared thoughtful; his gaze moved between the two, but soon, he looked away.
After the plane’s flight evened out, everyone lowered their seats and forced themselves to sleep, hoping to minimize the jet lag. After all, once they landed, things were going to get hectic.
Lately, Shi Jin’s sleep schedule had been extremely regular due to him being a patient, and soon, he woke up. The several attempts to fall asleep after that also failed, and his fidgeting almost woke Lian Jun, so he decided to give up. He leaned over and helped Lian Jun pull up his blanket then tiptoed into the galley.
Surprisingly, it wasn’t empty—Fei Yujing wasn’t sleeping either. He sat at a small table, hammering at his notebook keyboard.
The two brothers paused at the same time and briefly looked at each other.
“The coffee in the coffee pot just finished brewing.”
Unexpectedly, Fei Yujing opened his mouth first, and his attitude could be called decent; at least, his coldness wasn’t targeted—it was as if he spoke to an ordinary stranger.
“Thank you for the tip,” Shi Jin replied politely. Instead of coffee, he poured a glass of milk, walked to the seat on the other side of the galley, took out his tablet, and started to play mahjong.
When Fei Yujing heard the faint sound effects of the game, his hands paused, but he continued typing after a second.
On one side, there was a sound of keyboard keys, on the other, quiet clacks of game tiles. The two brothers both minded their own business without disturbing each other, and the atmosphere was surprisingly harmonious.
Time passed. Fei Yujing, finally finished sorting out the information he needed, took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes. He looked up at the opposite corner but found it was empty, and there was a thermos full of hot milk on the countertop.
‘Spend more time with Xiao Jin, and you’ll see what we’ve missed all these years.’
Suddenly, the words Shi Weichong said that day flashed through Fei Yujing’s mind. He frowned, got up, and looked at the thermos for a while, then sneered—what was it, an attempt to play on his emotions? Was that how Shi Weichong got tricked by Shi Jin?
Just as he thought this, Shi Jin, who he was convinced had left, came into the galley again. The teenager gave Fei Yujing, standing by the countertop but doing nothing, a strange look and asked, “Are you done? Then can you please move?” Then he squeezed past him, got a glass, filled it with hot milk, took a heated-up porridge from the microwave oven, put it all on a tray, and left.
Fei Yujing vaguely heard voices coming from the cabin—clearly, Shi Jin had prepared this hot milk for Lian Jun.
When somebody you have shown to dislike was trying to gain your affection, it was both irritating and embarrassing. However, discovering the other party wasn’t even trying, that you were just flattering yourself, was even more embarrassing.
Fei Yujing felt he must be too tired. He didn’t look at the thermos again, poured himself a cup of black coffee, and didn’t add sugar.
Grown-up men drank strong, bitter coffee. Only children drank milk.
They landed in L country in the southeastern region. Shi Jin pushed Lian Jun off the air-conditioned plane and nearly knelt on the spot when the hot, humid air outside hit him.
Though the weather was supposed to be most pleasant in April and May, L country was hot and stuffy. It must’ve just rained, because the ground was wet, and the buildings in the distance were distorted by rising water vapor. It was like standing in a steamer.
“I really hate coming here,” Gua Nine muttered, his baby face wrinkling in distaste like a prune.
Shi Jin shared his feelings. He didn’t dare let Lian Jun stay in this sweltering environment for too long and rushed to follow Gua One, pushing the wheelchair towards the airport exit.
In this batch, quite a lot of people came. If they were going to use cars, they would have to be split between several vehicles, which would be both inconvenient and potentially dangerous. So, Gua One had arranged for a tourist bus disguised as owned by a travel agency and stuffed them all in.
The bus was air-conditioned, and everyone could finally breathe. After a short rest, they immediately went to work.
First, Fei Yujing and the government liaisons: they had to get in touch with the diplomatic mission here. The two parties would cooperate and contact the local government, claiming that Chinese citizens who entered L country to do business had suddenly disappeared and were suspected of having been kidnapped.
Secondly, on Annihilation’s side—it was up to them to save the missing people. Gua Two and Gua Three had made preparations here a week ago; once Lian Jun fully grasped the situation, he would take over and decide what happened next.
Finally, the government forces officially stationed here. Because they were unable to assist in the open, they had to arrange various excuses and pretenses for them to be able to move, which had to be done as soon as possible.
For a while, the inside of the bus buzzed with phone calls, and everyone was busy… except for Shi Jin. It couldn’t be helped—he was just a newcomer, not even in this line of business for a year. He was good at fighting, but this kind of work where one needed to arrange and coordinate actions of a large number of people while always aware of the overall situation and its changes was something he had no experience with.
Lian Jun was catching up with Gua Two, and Shi Jin, sitting next to him, heard a little. Apparently, it had been a hectic week for Gua Two: not only did he mobilize Annihilation’s personnel in this area, but he also sent people to watch Nine Eagles’ movements in the entire Southeast, trying to discover Zuo Yang’s whereabouts. Besides that, he had to keep an eye on Nine Eagles’ ally, Gunfire, and Gunfire’s subordinate organizations. The man was so busy he almost split in two.
Gua Three, who came with Gua Two, was equally busy. He ran around with Old Ghost trying to find the captured Phantom’s members, sent people to investigate the hospital where Long Shi had been hiding and the organizations behind it, and another batch of people to help Phantom tidy up the businesses destroyed by Nine Eagles. He also hated that he couldn’t split himself in three.
As he listened, Shi Jin’s mood got worse and worse—it turned out the conflict between Phantom and Nine Eagles caused a much bigger mess than he initially thought.
Phantom’s members not only in L country but also in the neighboring N and T countries had been captured. Gunfire’s status in the Southeast was similar to that of Annihilation in China, but its ways were much more brutal and wanton. The difficulty of rescuing people from it across several countries was easy to imagine.
The reason why Lian Jun and others chose L country as their first stop was because the hospital Long Shi had been hiding in was here. Besides, China’s and L country’s governments’ relationship was better, which made it more convenient for implementing the later-stage “extradition because of financial crimes” plan.
Summarizing: right now, for the rescue of Old Ghost’s subordinates to count as successful, they needed to snatch them back from Gunfire and move them to L country so L country’s government could cooperate with Wen Baozhu and Fei Yujing’s economic lawsuit and extradite Phantom’s members back to China. This was a far cry from Lian Jun simply having to cooperate with the officials and put some pressure on the local organizations, which was what Shi Jin originally imagined would be all to happen.
If you’re seeing this notice, you’re reading this chapter on pirate site – the original translator of Death Progress Bar is Betwixted Translations.
The bus drove down a relatively secluded road. Abruptly, Xiao Si cried out, <JinJin, yours and Darling’s progress bars suddenly began to rise—there is danger nearby!>
Shocked, Shi Jin focused on the progress bars in his mind. He saw they had indeed jumped straight to 700, and were still rising consistently. A frown on his face, he turned to Gua One, who had just hung up, and asked, “Where are we going right now?”
“To the residence Old Ghost asked his deputy to arrange for us. It’s close to L country’s government district which makes it convenient for the lawyers to get about,” Gua One explained.
The residence Old Ghost’s deputy arranged for us?
Shi Jin continued to ask: “Are there any of our people over there? Or just Phantom’s members?”
“There’s Gua Three, but he’s coming straight to meet us.”
‘He’s coming straight to meet us,’ which means, Gua Three was not with the deputy right now, nor did he have enough time to check the safety of the arranged residence in advance or the road we need to take to arrive there?
Voice panicked, Xiao Si warned, <JinJin, the bars are rising faster, 850!>
There’s got to be danger on the road ahead! We can’t go any further!
Shi Jin’s mind worked rapidly. A second later, his face scrunched up. Grabbing Lian Jun’s hand, he whispered, “Jun-shao, I have a stomach ache, I need to go to the bathroom. Can we stop, please?”
Xiao Si: <……>
Lian Jun paused, said to Gua Two on the other end of a phone to wait a moment, and looked at Shi Jin. Seeing the teenager’s expression was distorted in a way that said the matter was quite urgent, he silently patted his hand and gave a sign to Gua One.
The corner of Gua One’s mouth twitched. He got up and approached the driver.
The bus stopped when the progress bars rose to 950. Shi Jin got off in a hurry, but a moment later rushed back inside. Acting exaggeratedly, he begged the driver, “Uncle, there seems to be no public toilet around here. Can detour to the nearest one?”
The driver was Annihilation’s member and a native of L country, familiar with the local roads. He started the engine and said, turning the steering wheel, “There’s actually one near, but the writing system here is a bit different, no wonder you couldn’t recognize it. I’ll take you to a larger one—it’s on the other road of the fork we just passed. The sign is huge and easily recognizable.”
Shi Jin’s eyes brightened when he heard this, and he praised the driver in his heart. He thanked him hurriedly, then apologized to the people on the bus for the delay, embarrassed.
Now, other people figured out why the bus suddenly stopped and why Shi Jin rushed down. Seeing him so contrite, of course, they wouldn’t make a fuss—it was a physical urgency, after all, it couldn’t be helped. Nobody minded this short delay.
Only two people looked less than friendly: one was Long Shi, manacled and shackled by Gua One after the plane landed, then thrown in the back end of the bus, and the other Fei Yujing, reclining in his seat with eyes closed. The former’s expression was derisive and full of hate, the latter’s indifferent but with a hint of contempt.
The bus backed up, turned, and took the other road of the fork, deviating from the original route.
The two progress bars began to fall the moment the bus reversed. The moment it turned into the second road, they dropped to 800.
Shi Jin leaned back in his seat, letting out a sigh of relief.
Frowning, Gua One said hesitantly, “You… don’t tell me you couldn’t hold it and just…”
For a few seconds, Shi Jin stared at him blankly, not understanding what he was getting at, then rolled his eyes with contempt, stood, and pulled at his trousers to prove he was unjustly accused.
Gua One fell silent. Seeing that Lian Jun turned to look at him, he quickly changed the subject: “I’ll tell Phantom we’ll be late, so they won’t worry.” Then he rose, wanting to move a few seats away to make a phone call.
Shi Jin promptly pulled him back down. “Call Gua Three first and ask him where he is. If he’s almost here, then let’s wait for him and go to the residence arranged by Phantom together,” he suggested. This way, there would be more people to help deal with the danger ahead.
“Yes, good idea,” Gua One nodded. He gestured outside the bus: “That should be the public toilet over there. Go, if you take too long, I will make Gua Three rendezvous with us here instead of further down the road—anyway, Jun-shao has something he wants to ask him about.”
Shi Jin looked outside the window at the small building getting closer and closer. He took the paper Lian Jun considerately passed him, deciding to camp in the toilet for a while.
Despite it being a public one, the toilet was quite nice: practically spotless and with cubicles instead of simple partitions. Shi Jin refused Lian Jun’s offer to go with him, got off the bus alone, and went into a cubicle near the toilet entrance.
One minute, two minutes, three minutes… After ten minutes passed, Shi Jin received a call from Lian Jun and mumbled a few vague words before hanging up.
A few minutes later, Gua Three’s team pinpointed their position using the coordinates Gua One sent them. At the same time, Shi Jin found both his and Lian Jun’s progress bars dropped to 700, which meant they were barely safe.
Thinking so, he stepped out of the cubicle. About to wash his hands, he found Fei Yujing was in the toilet too, also washing his hands.
Shi Jin stopped, and the two brothers looked at each other through the mirror. Fei Yujing spoke first, his voice cold and a little disgusted: “You actually didn’t flush the toilet?”
Shi Jin stiffened and reflexively snapped back, “You actually eavesdrop on people going to the toilet?”
For a second, the air seemed to freeze.
Fei Yujing’s face darkened. He turned on his heel and strode out of the toilet.
Shi Jin let out a disdainful snort and washed his hands, savoring the sweet taste of victory.
Gua Three and his team arrived in a dozen of modified jeeps, now parked along the street. Not exactly inconspicuous, they seemed to scream you don’t want to mess with the people in them.
When Shi Jin came out, Gua Three was explaining to Lian Jun the reason for their late arrival. “Actually, I should’ve picked you up at the airport, but there was some trouble in Phantom last night, and it delayed me,” he said, frowning.
Lian Jun sat in the back seat of Gua Three’s jeep. Seeing Shi Jin, he signaled for him to get in too, then asked Gua Three in the passenger seat, “Trouble? What happened?”
“There was a traitor, and he almost managed to kill Old Ghost. Old Ghost was so angry he cleaned his organization up overnight. I stayed to help him.” As Gua Three said this, his face turned a bit ugly. “This time, it wasn’t a small matter—the traitor was Old Ghost’s old subordinate who accompanied him for many years. He now suspects Nine Eagles has been able to hit Phantom so hard because they have moles inside.”
Shi Jin took the opportunity to interject, “Then is the place Phantom prepared for us safe? Since there are moles, maybe our plans were exposed a long time ago, and Zuo Yang now lurks in L country, waiting for us to deliver ourselves into his hands.”
Gua Three waved his hand. “No, it was arranged by Old Ghost’s trusted deputy after they discovered the traitor, so there should be no problem.”
Shi Jin said slowly, “What if the deputy is also a traitor? What if this is a two-man play—the attempt to kill Old Ghost was just a ruse to let us relax our vigilance by making us think this is Phantom’s internal trouble when in fact, the real target is us?”
“……” Gua Three eyed Shi Jin. After a long moment, he said, “You have quite an imagination.” If Shi Jin had indeed hit upon the truth, Old Ghost was truly pitiful—there were so many traitors around him.
“But it’s always right to be careful,” Shi Jin replied, glancing at Lian Jun.
Lian Jun met his gaze. His fingers tapped on his knee, and he opened his mouth, about to speak, when the sound of an explosion came from afar, followed by a thick column of smoke.
Shocked, everyone turned to look. Gua Three’s expression changed. He compared the location the smoke was rising from to the map in his mind, and said, “Not good—that’s the residence Old Ghost’s deputy arranged for us, and he’s still inside!”
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