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WarningThis chapter contains semi-graphic descriptions of gruesome death and the aftermath of torture. You may want to consider skipping it or waiting until the next is released so you don’t end the day on a bad note.
Everyone looked in the direction of the explosion. The bus driver and Gua One, who knew it came from where they were headed, immediately approached Lian Jun.
“Jun-shao, this was targeted at us,” Gua One said as soon as he got close.
The driver behind him nodded. “Calculating the distance and the time of the explosion, if we didn’t delay, we would’ve definitely got caught in it.”
Before they even spoke, Gua Three called Old Ghost’s deputy, but the man wasn’t answering. Feeling more and more uneasy, he lowered the phone and turned to Lian Jun. “Jun-shao.”
Lian Jun looked away from the column of smoke and issued a string of orders, “Call Old Ghost and tell him about the explosion; inform the officials, ask them to contact L country’s government and negotiate with them so we can be involved in handling the scene; get everyone off the bus and in the jeeps, with separate protection detail; adjust the convoy for the bus to be in the center. After five minutes, we’ll set off for the explosion site.”
At his commands, everyone’s unsettled hearts immediately calmed. They acknowledged the orders and got busy.
Shi Jin kept quiet until they were alone, then asked, “Why are we waiting for five minutes?”
“Five minutes is how long it takes for the official rescue units to arrive. We need them to be our cover,” Lian Jun explained. “Usually, if the first attack isn’t successful, a second will follow. If we rush in immediately, we’re likely to fall into the enemy’s trap and be hit by the second wave of ambush. However, if we delay until the official forces get there, they aren’t likely to attack rashly. The more cautious ones sound a retreat the moment they see an official rescue team.”
Shi Jin was enlightened. Unexpectedly, even in such a situation, he learned something new.
Lian Jun abruptly added, “It turns out that old adage is right: luck is also a kind of skill.”
Shi Jin’s heart skipped a beat. He immediately said, “Right? Our luck seems to have always been very good… Um, are you hungry? You haven’t eaten anything since you got off the plane. I remember there’s a small refrigerator on the bus with food inside—do you want some?”
This was such a blatant change of topic that even the densest person would notice it, but Lian Jun’s IQ seemed to have lowered due to being in love. After watching Shi Jin for a few seconds, he went along with the change of subject, allowing himself to be distracted.
Five minutes later, the convoy headed towards the explosion site, keeping the bus in the middle of the formation.
The explosion had been so loud that many people along the way came out of their houses, staring in disbelief toward the still-smoking blast site. The blaring sirens were quickly getting closer as all the rescue departments in the vicinity rushed to the scene.
Shi Jin glanced out the window as if observing the situation, but in fact, he was checking the progress bars in his mind. Seeing they weren’t rising, he silently let out a sigh of relief.
Since the bars didn’t budge, the ambush team must’ve indeed withdrawn after seeing the official rescue forces. There was no danger ahead.
Ten minutes later, they arrived at the explosion site.
It was a spacious private villa with a large yard. Right now, the building was in ruins. Ravaged with fire, the front yard was a mess, the brick fence was damaged by the blast of air and debris from the explosion, the wrought iron gates were askew, and some of the debris scattered on the street outside. The scene was quiet—nothing could be heard except for the crackling of flames. There were no visible people inside.
Police cars, ambulances, and fire engines parked around the villa, and nearby residents came out wanting to see the excitement. The situation looked rather chaotic.
Gua One make the team stop on a quiet street not far away, then called Gua Three. Together, they escorted the official liaisons to the villa and approached the local rescue personnel.
Gua Five also got out, taking a look around with a few others. After determining their surroundings were safe, he returned to guard Lian Jun’s car.
Shi Jin, somewhat uneasy, asked for a sight-enhancing buff. After catching sight of a grim-looking rescue worker carrying something resembling a body bag out of the villa, he couldn’t help but ask, “Jun-shao, do you think there was someone inside when the explosion occurred?”
Lian Jun also saw the commotion at the rescue scene. He looked at Shi Jin’s unconsciously heavy expression, kept silent for a moment, then reached for his hand, squeezing it soothingly. He said, “Shi Jin, I don’t want to lie to you… If you stay with me, you may see a lot of ugly things. People who lead their lives in the darkness can lose them at any moment.”
It was a euphemistic, “yes.”
Shi Jin’s hands tightened, and his brow furrowed. He didn’t say anything else.
The liaisons and the rescue workers couldn’t seem to reach an agreement. More than ten minutes later, after an inconspicuous car successfully evaded all the news media and quietly stopped near the villa, they were finally allowed to access the site and investigate inside.
Permission won, Gua One and Gua Three immediately turned and went to find Lian Jun while the three officials walked towards the low-key car, where their true battle would be fought.
While selecting people to enter the villa, Lian Jun asked about Shi Jin’s intentions, saying if he wanted to, he could stay in the car and wait for their news.
Shi Jin did not hesitate to go, his attitude firm.
He knew Lian Jun was afraid he might not be able to deal with the nightmarish scene inside, but he wasn’t really a teenager. Besides, since he wanted to be with Lian Jun, how could he let himself become a useless good-for-nothing, always taken care of by his lover?
Seeing him like this, Lian Jun only squeezed his hand and said nothing more.
In the end, there were five people chosen to enter the villa, namely Lian Jun, Gua One, Gua Three, Shi Jin, and Fei Yujing. Fei Yujing asked for it himself. He was employed as Phantom’s lawyer right now; since the accommodation Phantom arranged had clearly been problematic, and Old Ghost’s deputy’s fate was unknown, he felt obliged to go in on behalf of Old Ghost.
Shi Jin eyed Fei Yujing, whose expression was still perfectly normal, and silently prepared several plastic bags and a few bottles of water.
While local rescue workers were holding off the media, they took the chance to rush into the villa. Inside, they first surveyed the mess in the yard then headed straight to the house.
As they walked, Gua One observed, “The source of explosion was in the center of the building—the debris in the yard is too evenly distributed for it to have come from outside.”
“Then it seems the enemy had control of the villa,” Gua Three said.
The fire caused by the explosion was already extinguished by the firefighters. Police and the rescue workers bustled around the ruins, from time to time carrying out black bags with something inside, their expressions invariably ugly.
There was no need to wonder about the bags’ contents—they were bodies, or pieces of bodies.
Shi Jin was silent, his heart heavy.
As they approached the main entrance, there was a sudden commotion in the corner of the yard. When they turned to look, they saw a group of rescue workers, pointing and saying something. Shi Jin glanced at the place they were gesturing at and saw a tree severely damaged by the blast, with what appeared to be a fragment of a human body hanging on the branches, dripping blood.
He immediately looked away, silently adjusting his emotions.
As a former policeman, he had seen even worse and more bloody scenes, but these experiences had clearly not been enough for him to be able to keep his calm when suddenly faced with something like this.
Everyone obviously saw the tree and what was on it. Gua One and Gua Three were completely unruffled: for them, this picture was not worth even a raised eyebrow. Lian Jun, too—he was the boss of an underworld organization after all. Fei Yujing’s reaction was the biggest; though his expression didn’t change, his action of immediately taking off his glasses revealed his discomfort.
Looking at Shi Jin pushing the wheelchair, Lian Jun said, “I can ask Gua One to send you out and bring in Gua Five instead.”
“I’m fine,” Shi Jin shook his head. “Let’s go in—we shouldn’t waste time, or the rescue workers will inadvertently destroy clues.”
So Lian Jun didn’t say anything more and signaled for everyone to continue into the villa.
Fei Yujing glanced at Shi Jin with a frown, as if surprised by his calm.
The situation in the house was worse than any of them expected. Almost every piece of furniture was reduced to shreds. The room most likely to be the living room was missing one wall, and the still-standing ones were scorched and covered in remnants of the firefighting.
Everything they could see bore burnt marks, was stained with blood, or both. Thick black-gray ash floated in the air. Black and crimson lumps of flesh which used to be parts of human bodies were scattered around the room; rescue workers were carefully gathering them into body bags. The smell of blood, fire, charred meat, and whatever explosives had caused the explosion mixed, creating a powerful, revolting stench.
Shi Jin held his breath, suppressing rising nausea. He borrowed several filter masks from the rescue workers and distributed them to his companions.
Gua One and Gua Three took the masks, somewhat surprised by Shi Jin’s composure. This should have been the first time the young man saw this kind of hellish sight. They had thought even if he didn’t run at first glance, he would still be upset or terrified. They never expected him to be the first one to shake off the impact and even thoughtfully ask for masks.
Well, perhaps it was the power of love.
As they thought this, their gazes fell on Lian Jun, the first person to receive a mask. Sometimes, love makes people stronger.
While Shi Jin’s quick recovery was astonishing, Fei Yujing’s reaction was much more normal. Face awful, he put on the mask as soon as he got it, and tried not to look at all the bloody lumps around. His brows were so wrinkled they nearly joined together.
If you’re seeing this notice, you’re reading this chapter on pirate site – the original translator of Death Progress Bar is Betwixted Translations.
After distributing the masks, Shi Jin quietly took out a plastic bag and a bottle of water and handed them to him, saying, “Take this, go outside, and throw up—if you vomit here, you will contaminate the scene. If you can’t stand it, go back to the bus.”
Feeling that he was being looked down upon, Fei Yujing refused to accept them. “Who said I want to throw up? Get these things away, I don’t need them.”
Any other time, after Fei Yujing rejected his good intentions, Shi Jin would definitely not bother about him again. However, the place they were in right now was much too close to hell, and his brother was the only “ordinary person” here who had never seen a similar scene. Since Shi Jin was not devoid of conscience, he decided to take pity on the stubborn lawyer and said bluntly, “Don’t pretend. I can see your Adam’s apple shifting—don’t you feel sick swallowing your puke again and again?”
His words were too descriptive and caught Fei Yujing just as the vomit in his throat was rising. His Adam’s apple bobbing again, he glared at Shi Jin with murder in his eyes, grabbed the plastic bag and the water, and walked towards the villa’s exit.
Shi Jin didn’t forget to admonish him kindly, “Go a bit farther away from the villa and remember to throw the garbage into the trash, don’t burden the rescue workers with cleaning up after you.”
Fei Yujing’s footsteps paused for a second, then quickened, with a bit of a stomp added and, presumably, gnashing of teeth.
After some preparation, they officially began to investigate the villa.
Gua One was supposed to investigate the cause of the blast and search for the remnants of the explosives, Gua Three was responsible for identifying the bodies in the villa and looking for survivors, and Lian Jun would contact Old Ghost who was temporarily unable to come over and update him on the situation. And Shi Jin, who was not assigned a task, looked around and silently joined the rescue team.
After putting on the coveralls and gloves, he followed the rescue workers shuttling through the villa, learning from them how to do what they were doing. Soon, his coveralls were stained with blood, but his movements became increasingly skilled and proficient.
Gua One completed his task and returned to Lian Jun’s side. Seeing Shi Jin like this, he couldn’t help but say, “Jun-shao, it’s like Shi Jin was born to be in our line of work—his fortitude is outstanding.”
“Yes,” Lian Jun replied, gaze fixed on Shi Jin. However, instead of looking happy the man he loved was being acknowledged and praised, his eyebrows were furrowed, and his expression somber.
Fei Yujing, who despite his discomfort stood to the side writing a description of the scene, heard their exchange. He glanced at Shi Jin and happened to see him gently and solemnly zipping up a body bag. Scowling, he raised a hand and pressed the mask closer against his face, looking away.
Half an hour later, the rescue workers’ work in the villa was basically finished, and Shi Jin took off the gloves and protective clothes. He was just about to go back to Lian Jun and ask about the overall situation when he saw Gua Three hurry in from the outside. “Old Ghost’s deputy has been found, still alive. He’s in the doghouse in the backyard.”
Shi Jin frowned, having a bad feeling. He ran to Lian Jun to push his wheelchair and followed Gua One and others outside.
The villa Old Ghost chose for Lian Jun was originally very nice. In the backyard, there was a swimming pool with a small garden beside it. In the corner of the garden stood a cartoonish wooden doghouse, looking very new and overdone. It was probably just a decoration, not somewhere a real pet would live.
When they arrived, the paramedics and rescue workers were carefully dismantling the roof and walls of the doghouse. The people on the periphery could only see a bit of what was inside through a gap in the roof made by the explosion. Even that bit, however, was enough to make their blood run cold.
It was a bloody hand, lying on the ground in the upper right corner of the doghouse. There were no fingers, only a bare palm.
Shocked, Shi Jin instinctively bent down to cover Lian Jun’s eyes.
Since Lian Jun sat in the wheelchair, too low to actually see anything, he was startled at Shi Jin’s sudden action but quickly figured out the reason for it. He pulled the teenager’s hand down and held it tightly. “Go out and stay in the car, let Gua Five come here,” he couldn’t help but say again.
Shi Jin got a hold of his emotions. Gripping Lian Jun’s hand back, he shook his head, still refusing. “I’m all right. Let’s go and see.”
While they were talking, Gua One and Gua Three approached the doghouse, which the paramedics and rescue workers had already dismantled, revealing the person inside. Everyone fell silent, and the atmosphere became oppressive.
“I can’t save him,” the doctor shook his head, eyes full of frustration and grief. “I’ll give him some painkillers, at least make it a little easier for him.”
The doctor was a L country native and spoke the local language, which Shi Jin didn’t understand. However, when he pushed Lian Jun’s wheelchair closer and saw Old Ghost’s deputy, he had a good guess of what the doctor said.
The man lying in the doghouse no longer resembled a human. Probably to fit him inside, the people who hurt him brutally broke and twisted his limbs. He only had one eye left.
Judging from the various wounds on his body, he suffered a lot of torture before being stuffed in the doghouse. His face was bluish, and there was froth at his mouth—obviously, in addition to being so grievously injured, he was also poisoned.
As soon as Fei Yujing saw the deputy’s appearance, he turned his head and raised his hand to cover his mouth, his face even more terrible.
Shi Jin’s hands clenched on the wheelchair handles. He couldn’t speak. His heart was heavy and flooded by a sudden wave of powerless hatred, hatred that humans could be so cruel to a fellow human being.
Amid the repressive silence, the deputy, perhaps roused by the doctor’s efforts to dress his wounds and feed him medicine, suddenly turned his head and opened his eye. Upon seeing Lian Jun in the wheelchair, his sole eye suddenly lit up, and he struggled to move. He forced out words, voice slurred, “I… I didn’t betray Brother Ghost… They… They threatened me with my brothers’ lives, trying to force me to draw you here… I, I did not… Jun… Jun-shao… Help me to… To apologize to Brother Ghost… Say, say I’m sorry… I didn’t protect our brothers, they… Gun, Gunfire…”
His tongue seemed to have been hurt, and as he spoke, the blood trickled from his mouth. Shi Jin couldn’t bear to watch anymore. He looked away and took a deep breath.
Lian Jun suddenly stood up. He walked to the side of the deputy, crouched down and, not caring about the blood, put his hand over the man’s heart. Looking into his eye, he said, “I promise to tell him and to help him save your brothers. You can be at ease.”
At his words, the deputy’s face relaxed, and the light in his pupil began to dim. His eye slowly closed, and he whispered almost inaudibly, “I… Believe you… Thank… you…”
The weak heartbeat under Lian Jun’s palm gradually faded. He stayed still for a long time before taking back his hand, looking at the deputy’s body, neither moving nor speaking.
“There are no signs of life,” the doctor announcing sadly, giving up his futile attempts to bandage the man’s injuries.
Gua One’s jaw clenched, and he couldn’t help but curse under his breath.
Gua Three turned and wiped his face, the list of deceased crumpled in his tightly clenched fist.
Cleaning up the bodies and watching a living person lose his life in front of him were two completely different things. Shi Jin’s hands released the wheelchair handles as if they had lost strength. He stared at the deputy’s body, eyes empty and dark.
Silently, the medical staff dealt with the remains, and everyone returned to their work. While they still did as they were supposed to, the mood was noticeably subdued.
Shi Jin pushed Lian Jun deeper into the garden, to a place with more plants. Squatting beside the wheelchair, he began to clean Lian Jun’s hand of blood, very carefully, one finger at a time.
“Shi Jin.” Lian Jun held his hand. “Are you scared?”
Shi Jin glanced up at him, sat down on the ground, and after a few seconds of silence, asked, “What about you? Are you scared?”
“I am.” Lian Jun looked at the blood still staining his hand then abruptly leaned forward and hugged him, whispering, “Shi Jin, you can’t die before me, absolutely not.”
Shi Jin raised his arms and hugged him too, gently stroking his back. As if agreeing to a pact, he said, “All right, then I will die after you.”
Lian Jun said nothing more, only buried his face in Shi Jin’s shoulder. A moment later, he suddenly let him go and said, his expression back to normal, “Come on, it’s time to go out. Old Ghost should arrive soon.”
Shi Jin took a look at his clenched fists and responded with a low hum. He got up, grabbed the wheelchair handles, and pushed him towards the gates.
By now, the crowd of onlookers and the media had already scattered, so they didn’t have trouble returning to the car. After summing up the results of the investigation, they determined regretfully that all sixteen subordinates Old Ghost sent to assist Lian Jun had died in the explosion. There were no survivors.
“Gunfire,” Lian Jun whispered, taking the list of the deceased from Gua Three, eyes dark and frigid.
Sixteen lives. Even if Gunfire didn’t kill any Annihilation members this time, this was provocative enough.
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