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Eye For an Eye
By the time Old Ghost arrived, the rescue workers had cleared up the scene and were preparing to take away the bodies.
Gua One wanted to stop him from entering the villa and seeing the tragic sight inside but Lian Jun said to let him go.
Old Ghost went straight to the front yard where the bodies were laid out. He stood still for a few seconds then stepped forward and began to open the black bags one by one. Finally, he crouched in front of the deputy’s corpse; his jaw and fists were clenched so hard they were white, and his eyes reddened, but he didn’t cry.
Lian Jun came up behind him in his wheelchair. He took out a mobile phone and said, “When we found him, he had this beside him, but didn’t use it to call for help. The bomb was detonated by remote control; the other fifteen people were inside at the time, but he wasn’t. The fingers on his left hand were all cut off, but his right still had the thumb and index finger left—this should’ve been intentional.”
Old Ghost blinked and looked over his shoulder then got up and rushed to Lian Jun, almost yanking the phone out of his hand. It was a cheap, disposable model with no numbers recorded in memory but a prepaid SIM card. It was entirely possible to make a call from it.
“He could have called for help… He could have called for help.” Old Ghost kept repeating this sentence, the phone nearly cracking as his fingers tightened around it. His voice was heavy, and the hatred in it grew more and more intense with each repetition.
According to the results of the investigation, the deputy could have called for help before he died. Gunfire must’ve deliberately left the phone with him so he would. The man didn’t, and watched his subordinates die in the explosion.
It was clear that Gunfire took control of the villa, wanting to ambush Lian Jun who was supposed to arrive today. However, an unexpected accident delayed him, and not only did he change the route, but he even stopped to wait for Gua Three.
When Gunfire discovered Lian Jun had stopped, they probably wanted Old Ghost’s deputy to urge him to come over as soon as possible and not let him meet up with Gua Three and his team. The deputy refused and so was tortured. His stubbornness likely pissed off Gunfire members so much that they cut off most of his fingers and stuffed him in the doghouse with the phone, and put his tied-up subordinates in the room with the bomb, trying to use their lives to force him to call for help and bring Lian Jun over.
Obviously, the deputy still didn’t obey, holding on despite Gunfire’s expectations. Then, after Gua Three successfully joined Lian Jun, Gunfire knew today’s opportunity to attack was lost and detonated the bomb.
“When we stopped I called your deputy. His voice was completely normal. He said there was no need to worry, it didn’t matter if we came late. He did hang up quickly but I didn’t notice something wasn’t right. It’s my negligence.” Gua One said, filled with remorse.
Old Ghost’s lips quivered then tightened. Pushing down the pain, he replied, “Old Wen was a careful man, good at bluffing and negotiation—unless he wanted you to notice, you would never know something was wrong just by listening to his voice. It’s not your fault, he… He did what he should’ve done! Even if you didn’t stop, Old Wen would have definitely tried to warn you to stay away from the villa, and if he didn’t manage to, he would’ve probably did his best to detonate the bomb and perish together with the Gunfire bastards… He would surely do it, he was that kind of person. This is my fault—when we found the mole, I should’ve been more careful and not let him act alone. It’s my fault.”
Lian Jun saw the emotional turmoil Old Ghost was trying to suppress. After a moment of silence, he decided now was the right moment to fulfill his promise to the deputy and pass on his dying words.
“—I didn’t betray you, I’m sorry I couldn’t protect our brothers’ lives.”
Old Ghost’s face trembled and his Adam’s apple shifted up and down. This was the final straw to crush the last vestiges of his self-control. A muffled, anguished cry rose in his throat, he turned towards the deputy’s body and sank to his knees, burying his face in his hands. His shoulders shook as he began to sob.
It was early May, the beginning of the rainy season in the L country. The air was hot and stuffy, and dark clouds swept in from the distance; it was about to rain again. The overcast sky, this hell-like scene of death, the repressed sobs… Everything seemed shrouded in a thick layer of grey, making people’s eyes sour.
As Shi Jin watched Old Ghost cry, his heart grew unbearably heavy. He turned away and wiped his face.
It was so very difficult for those walking in the darkness to step out into the light they craved.
By the time they were done handling everything that needed to be handled concerning the tragedy, it was late afternoon.
After Old Ghost got a hold of his emotions, he and his men left to take care of his deceased subordinates’ affairs. Lian Jun took his people and settled in one of the government residences.
This arrangement was a result of cooperation between the L country government and their accompanying officials. Gunfire was like a malignant cancer ravaging the southeastern region, vicious and violent. Now that someone wanted to clean it up, the local authorities were more than willing to open some back doors to provide a little assistance.
It was a rather strange experience: a group of gangsters from another country stayed in an official residence provided by L country and were carefully protected by the L country soldiers.
When everyone settled down, they gathered for a meal, the taste of which nobody paid attention to, then went to their rooms to rest.
After pushing Lian Jun to his room, Shi Jin filled the bathtub with hot water for him then took a quick shower himself. However, he didn’t go to his own room and just sat beside Lian Jun, watching the rain outside grow heavier and heavier.
“What are we going to do next?” He asked.
Lian Jun glanced at the water trails on the window pane. “Make Gunfire pay what they owe.”
Taken aback, Shi Jin turned to look at him. “How?”
The sky was covered with heavy clouds, and the flashes of lightning were almost constant.
The sound of thunder seemed to wake Lian Jun. As he looked at Shi Jin, his expression gradually eased. He reached out and touched the teenager’s face, saying, “You must be tired. Do you want to take a nap?”
This change of topic was very blunt—he quite obviously avoided the question.
Shi Jin held Lian Jun’s hand and looked into his face; despite the older man trying to hide it, he still couldn’t completely conceal the cold, hard gleam in his dark eyes. Shi Jin leaned closer and wrapped an arm around his shoulders. He knew his lover was unwilling to answer because the answer was something he didn’t want to hear.
There was only one way to settle blood debts in the underworld.
If you’re seeing this notice, you’re reading this chapter on pirate site – the original translator of Death Progress Bar is Betwixted Translations.
In the early evening, Old Ghost and his subordinates returned, dressed completely in black. His face was worse than before but his spirit was abnormally good as if he’d found something to keep him from being weak or collapsing.
Once Lian Jun knew he was back, he went to see him.
The two leaders stayed alone in the study for about a quarter of an hour, then Old Ghost pushed the door open and left again, despite the heavy rain. Lian Jun came out of the study and asked Gua One, who was waiting outside, to call Gua Two. His order was one simple sentence: Fully cooperate with Old Ghost.
Shi Jin witnessed it all but asked no questions and just pushed Lian Jun back to his room.
After the usual massage, he went to his room to take a shower then returned to Lian Jun’s room.
Lian Jun leaned against the headboard and flipped through the documents. Seeing Shi Jin return in pajamas, he asked, “What’s the matter, did you leave something behind?”
Not speaking, Shi Jin went straight to the bed, lifted the bed covers, and slipped inside, settling next to Lian Jun and closing his eyes.
Lian Jun paused then put down the documents. He looked at the young man lying beside him and raised a hand to touch him but withdrew before he did. “Shi Jin?” He whispered.
Shi Jin opened his eyes and said in a serious tone, “It’s getting late, it’s time to sleep.”
Lian Jun watched him pretend to look solemn. Suddenly he smiled, set the papers on the nightstand, and lied down on his side next to him. Caressing the teenager’s face, he said, “Thank you.”
“I don’t understand why you’re thanking me…” Shi Jin grumbled, turning so they lay facing each other. He held the hand touching his face and closed his eyes again. “No more talking, goodnight.”
Lian Jun’s lips curled. Obediently not speaking, he leaned closer to him, propped himself up on one elbow, and bowed his head to kiss him.
Shi Jin’s eyelashes trembled. He raised his arms to hug him and opened his lips, deepening the kiss.
The two’s posture slowly changed from face-to-face to up-and-down. When Lian Jun noticed Shi Jin’s initiative, his self-control seemed to snap. Half-propped over Shi Jin, he held his face in both hands and indulged in desire, like a man dying of thirst.
“Mmm.” Feeling a bite on the tip of his tongue, Shi Jin couldn’t help but make a sound.
Lian Jun let out a low chuckle. Restraining himself a bit, he gently rubbed the younger man’s lips.
Shi Jin came over just to keep Lian Jun company, hoping his lover would draw some comfort from his presence—he didn’t expect the situation to get so completely out of control. A simple goodnight kiss, because of his little action, made Lian Jun lose it like this.
The two bodies under the covers overlapped. Lian Jun wore a silk nightgown, but by now, it had become disheveled. The collar was open, revealing his clavicle and a small part of his chest, and the soft glow of the night lamp made him even more seductive than he already was.
Shi Jin glimpsed it between the kisses. Before his brain caught up with his actions, one of his hands already left Lian Jun’s back and slid up his chest, gently stroking the exposed skin.
Lian Jun’s breathing became slightly disorderly. As they continued to kiss, he gradually changed the position, his hand sneaking into the quilt to touch Shi Jin’s body.
The atmosphere became more and more heated when suddenly, a weird, suppressed cry resembling a duck call sounded in Shi Jin’s mind, waking him up at once. No longer controlled by instinct, he realized what he and Lian Jun were doing right now, and remembered Xiao Si’s existence. It was as if his brain burst. He quickly let go of Lian Jun then caught the other man’s hand wandering around his body and pulled it from under the quilt: “Don’t.”
The ambiguous atmosphere dissipated in an instant.
Lian Jun took a nibble of his earlobe and rose up a bit to look at him. He quietly adjusted his breathing, lowered his head again to press a last quick kiss against his lips, then squeezed his hand and fell back on the bed. He gathered the younger man in his arms and whispered, comfortingly stroking his back, “I’m sorry, I was in too much of a hurry. Let’s sleep.”
Shi Jin was a young and healthy male. His reaction was bigger than Lian Jun’s; his breathing was still disordered and his body hot. His heart, however, was cold—at the moment, he was full of unspeakable feelings and madly poked Xiao Si.
Xiao Si pretended to be dead. At last, it couldn’t bear Shi Jin’s prodding and wailed, <I tried to hold back, I really tried, but in the end, I couldn’t… Waaah, Darling, I’m sorry, waaaaah… JinJin, shield against me, sniff…> Its voice was filled with remorse.
Shi Jin: “……” Since it lamented this much, Xiao Si must’ve truly tried its best but unfortunately, it couldn’t manage to keep quiet.
No, not, unfortunately, fortunately—otherwise, he and Lian Jun would’ve been peeped at by this voyeur of a system.
The thought was a little scary.
Because Shi Jin didn’t speak or move, Lian Jun thought his too eager actions made his beloved angry and hurriedly whispered apologies and soothing words.
Shi Jin stopped paying attention to Xiao Si’s whimpers and focused on the real world. Letting out a silent sigh, he nestled against Lian Jun’s chest, explaining, “No, I’m not angry. I want this too, I just… I’m not ready tonight.” Next time, he must remember to shut Xiao Si away in advance!
The system heard his thought and immediately burst into tears again.
Shi Jin got a headache.
He was a healthy adult. Since he had a lover now, it was completely normal to want to do this and that.
What’s more, bad things happened during the day, making his lover unhappy. Doing something intimate and shifting his attention sounded like a plan.
He never expected a “naughty kid” to run out and make trouble just as he was about to have a good time. So, in the end, not only did he have to patiently comfort the upset “child” but also explain to his lover why he suddenly changed his mind. He wanted to cry.
Lian Jun seemed to have gotten a bit of a wrong idea. Touching his hair, he soothed, “I understand, you’re still young. Go to sleep—don’t worry, I won’t touch you again.”
‘I won’t touch you again’? What does this mean? He won’t touch me tonight or he won’t touch me at all? He can’t mean we’ll have a platonic relationship, can he? No way, impossible! Lian Jun was the best, most handsome man ever—if still nothing happened, didn’t it mean Shi Jin was destined to spend both of his lives as a virgin!?
Perhaps he was confused by his body’s impulses, but something seemed to snap in Shi Jin’s mind. Before he could think, he hugged Lian Jun and rubbed against him, saying seriously, “No, you should touch me. I like you touching me.”
Xiao Si: <Gwack!>
Shi Jin raised an eyebrow. He glanced at Lian Jun’s face, looking even more handsome in the dim, warm light, and decisively “turned off” the progress bars, then reached for Lian Jun’s chest, pulling his nightgown open. He found Lian Jun’s hand under the quilt and put it on himself, kissed him, and whispered, “We won’t do everything, but we can just… touch a little, can’t we?”
Since the person he loved was so active, it was impossible for Lian Jun to stay calm. Breathing faster, his arm immediately circled Shi Jin’s waist and brought him into his embrace.
Xiao Si was not released from the “small black room” until morning. The system seemed to have wasted away in this one night. <The progress bar didn’t rise, that’s great,> it uttered weakly.
Shi Jin was still in a daze, savoring the “taste of beauty.” Seeing Xiao Si’s state, he felt a little guilty. “The place we’re staying right now is one of the official residences belonging to L country, meant for important guests. Not only is it guarded, but Gua Three arranged for our own people to take turns keeping watch. There was no danger,” he explained with a low cough.
<Oh,> Xiao Si said, abnormally quiet.
Shi Jin couldn’t stand it. “I won’t shut you away for so long next time, I swear!”
<As if I’d believe a man’s promise ever again—I’d rather believe pigs can fly. Men are liars and scumbags, only waiting to deceive and take advantage of you,> the system said dully. Judging by its tone, it might as well be chanting curses.
Shi Jin: “……”
Xiao Si’s voice fell to an indistinct yet ominous mumble.
Shi Jin busied himself with his tablet, pretending to be deaf.
Xiao Si broke first. Giving in, it asked tentatively, <That, last night, did you and Darling, have you…>
“No,” Shi Jin replied. Thinking of last night, he couldn’t help wanting to grin but managed to keep his expression serious. He got up and headed for the door. “Lian Jun said Gua Two will be back today, I’ll go and see.”
Xiao Si let out a disappointed, <Oh,> wilting again.
Gua Two appeared before lunch. He was noticeably thinner and dark from sun, wore a battered camouflage uniform, and had stubble on his face. When he arrived, he went to report to Lian Jun right away, without stopping to even take a sip of water. “As per your order, I’m cooperating with Phantom. Last night, my team and I destroyed three subordinate organizations to Gunfire, robbing some very valuable goods and catching their bosses. Old Ghost didn’t sit on his hands either—he attacked all of Nine Eagles’ businesses he could reach. Zuo Yang probably won’t be able to sit still.”
“Good job,” Lian Jun nodded. He motioned for him to sit down and asked, “Where’s Old Ghost now?”
Shi Jin poured a glass of water and set it in front of Gua Two.
The man thanked him and drank it in one gulp. He wiped his mouth then replied, “He didn’t come, he’s busy tying up some loose ends. He’s going to cut off all the businesses belonging to Phantom he can cut off at present and give up all their interests in the Southeast. He’s about to declare all-out war with Nine Eagles.”
Shi Jin’s mood became complicated.
It seemed the death of his deputy was an enormous blow to Old Ghost—he had been avoiding the two organizations’ relations turning openly hostile, but now, he was determined to get rid of Nine Eagles or die trying.
Lian Jun lightly thumbed the corner of a file. “Have you compiled a list of the organizations under Gunfire?”
“I have.” Gua Two took out a USB flash drive and handed it to him. “However, it’s not complete. The obvious incongruencies in several organizations’ actions point to the existence of a secret one giving them a hand. Unfortunately, time was too short and I didn’t manage to find it.”
“This is enough,” Lian Jun appeased. He plugged the flash drive in his laptop, skimmed through the list, then tapped on the table with his fingers and said, “Call everyone here.”
Gua Two was about to stand but Shi Jin stopped him. He told him to sit and have a rest, and went himself instead.
After informing Gua One, Three, and Five about the meeting, he grabbed some food and brought it back for Gua Two.
Gua Two enthusiastically praised him for being considerate and wanted to slap him on the shoulder. However, as he was raising his hand, he noticed a small red mark similar to a mosquito bite on the young man’s neck and froze. He shot a quick glance at Lian Jun, sitting behind the desk and talking with Gua One, and touched his chin instead. He bumped Shi Jin with his shoulder and asked, lowering his voice, “Little JinJin, so Jun-shao got some, huh?”
Shi Jin looked at him, confused.
Gua Two pointedly glanced at his ass, the expression on his face full of meaning.
Shi Jin’s eyebrows jumped. Without hesitation, he raised a hand and tried to jab two fingers in his eyes.
Gua Two hastily leaned away, chuckling quietly and wretchedly. He made people’s hands itch to beat him.
With Gua Two’s antics, the atmosphere, gloomy since Old Ghost’s deputy’s death, finally lightened. Once Lian Jun and Gua One had looked through the information he brought back, Lian Jun knocked on the desk, drawing everyone’s attention, and said, “Gunfire is like a rabid dog. There’s practically no chance of getting the missing people back peacefully, so after a discussion, Old Ghost and I have decided to pay Gunfire back blow for blow.”
Shi Jin immediately realized the significance of the list Gua Two compiled.
“The reason Gunfire and Nine Eagles dare to be so fearless is because they have Phantom members in their hands and know Old Ghost won’t dare to fight back in fear for their lives. Such being the case, we’ll also grab their people and turn the situation around.” Lian Jun turned the laptop to show them the screen. “This is some of Gunfire’s subordinate organizations; four of them are very important, almost vital to Gunfire due to their business operations. What we need to do next is get rid of these four small organizations and capture their leaders alive.”
Shi Jin’s pulse began to race with excitement. He also thought Lian Jun, who said this as if it was nothing, was unbelievably cool!
Eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, blood for blood. Annihilation tended to be low key, but when there was a need to fight, Lian Jun’s reaction was always resolute and to the point, extremely satisfying!
Gua One and the others became excited too. Gua Two rubbed his stubbly chin and sneered, “Nine Eagles began to target Phantom because it felt its interests in the Southeast were threatened, so it wanted to warn the rival off; later, Gunfire and Nine Eagles captured Phantom members probably because they were eyeing Phantom’s businesses here. If at that point they contacted Old Ghost and gave him more or less reasonable terms, he would’ve definitely yielded and cut off meat for them. It’s just that they’re too greedy—they didn’t want just a cut but to devour Old Ghost alive. Well, now the man is about to get rid of his businesses just so to tear out their throats. Should I say serves them right or should I say they fucking deserve it?”
“That it fucking serves them right,” Gua One said, playing along with Gua Two for once. His expression, though, wasn’t mocking but icy.
Shi Jin glanced at Gua One, silently agreeing with him.
Lian Jun waited for them to finish speaking then knocked on the desk again. He continued, “Four organizations—the four of you will each be responsible for one. Gua One and Five’s current duties will be temporarily handed over to Gua Nine. Go make preparations.”
The four men answered in unison, got up, and walked out of the study.
Shi Jin watched them leave, a little confused. He turned to Lian Jun, who was busying himself with the laptop, and asked, pointing at himself, “Jun-shao, what about me? Don’t I get a task?” Since he’d been a member of Annihilation for quite some time already, he thought he’d also get something to do. However, it turned out that even Gua Nine, who wasn’t here, was entrusted with a job, yet Shi Jin was still passed over.
Moreover, he seemed to have been idle for a long time—he hadn’t received an assignment since Pockmarked Yuan.
Lian Jun raised his head and looked at him, apparently dumbstruck.
Seeing his expression, Shi Jin made a guess. He said carefully, “You haven’t… You couldn’t have possibly forgotten I’m your subordinate too, could you?”
“…Your task is to protect me.” Lian Jun quickly regained his composure. Face calm, he closed the laptop and continued, “You will assist Gua Nine and are responsible for watching Long Shi.”
Shi Jin was silent. He felt he had struck upon the truth: Lian Jun had completely stopped considering him as a subordinate.
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