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When Shi Jin returned to the car, Lian Jun was on the phone.
He got in, closed the door, and waited for Lian Jun to end the call. “What happened?” he asked.
“Uncle Long has arrived in B city,” the man replied, putting down the phone. He took out a bottle of water, twisted off the cap, and handed it to Shi Jin. “Where do you want to eat? Do you want to go back to the club or eat outside?”
“Go back.” As he took a sip of water, Shi Jin suddenly remembered the careful way Shi Weichong tore the plastic packaging off of the bottle this morning, and paused. He glanced in the direction of the examination hall, found that he could not see the figure of his brother, and lowered the water bottle as if nothing had happened.
Lian Jun followed his line of sight. “What did you say to Shi Weichong?” he asked.
Shi Jin’s hand tightened on the bottle, his expression complicated. He let out a sigh. “Something very unpleasant… He shouldn’t come to see me again.”
“Are you regretting it?” Lian Jun took his hand, squeezing it in comfort.
Shi Jin shook his head. “No, I just… I don’t like to do things like that.”
He wasn’t good at dealing with this kind of situation, and he didn’t like to use his words to hurt people. However, he didn’t really have a choice in this matter—the attitude he needed to show and the actions he had to take were bound to and depended upon his identity as the original ‘Shi Jin’. To be honest, he was a little tired.
Xiao Si picked up his thoughts and whispered, hesitant, <JinJin…>
Shi Jin heard its call and quickly pulled himself together. He smiled at Lian Jun and said both to him and Xiao Si, “It’s okay. My head’s a bit messed up from the exam, just let me eat something delicious and I’ll be fine.”
Lian Jun didn’t say anything, only reached out to take him into his arms, stroking his back in a soothing manner.
Not caring about Gua Two and Gua Five sitting in front seats, Shi Jin hugged Lian Jun’s waist and snuggled into his shoulder, closing his eyes.
Maybe because he didn’t sleep well last night, or perhaps because Lian Jun’s arms were too comfortable, Shi Jin actually fell asleep in the car.
Lian Jun didn’t want to disturb him. He asked for the car to park at the entrance of the club and let the younger man sleep on his lap, going through documents while waiting for him to wake up. Fortunately, the back seat was spacious enough for Shi Jin to lie down in comfort, so he slept fairly well.
At half past one, Lian Jun, afraid that Shi Jin wouldn’t have enough time to eat before the afternoon exam, put down the file and called him with a gentle voice.
It took a while for Shi Jin to completely wake up. He got out of the car and went back to the club to have lunch with Lian Jun. After walking around for a while to help digestion, he returned to the examination hall, still accompanied by Lian Jun.
With how the morning exam went, Shi Jin was no longer nervous. On the way, he even made Lian Jun play mahjong with him; his mentality had adjusted pretty well.
Gua Two mocked Shi Jin, saying he was just like a pig—he only needed to eat and sleep for all his worries to disappear.
Shi Jin snorted in disdain and showed him his middle finger.
Before the afternoon exam began, Shi Jin actively asked Xiao Si for buffs, then twirled his pen, filled with confidence.
Two hours passed before he knew it; he stopped writing just as the bell rang and smiled with satisfaction. After gathering his things, he stepped out of the classroom and hurried towards the exit together with the other examinees.
The first day of the college entrance examination was over. It passed relatively smoothly, Shi Weichong’s episode notwithstanding.
Uncle Long arrived at the club while Shi Jin was taking a nap in the car, and went straight to his room to sleep off the jet lag, so they didn’t meet. He only found out that Shi Jin was taking part in this year’s college entrance exam in the evening, when he woke up and came down to eat.
Filled with intent, he looked for Shi Jin, and found him playing mahjong in Lian Jun’s study. He scrutinized the teenager, who was sprawled on the sofa, with a frown, growing more displeased the longer he watched. Reluctant, he still pushed down his dissatisfaction in the end and asked, “What major are you going to choose?”
Somehow, Uncle Long’s gaze made Shi Jin’s hair stand on end. He replied, cautious, “I haven’t decided yet… Do you have any suggestions?”
Uncle Long grit his teeth. “How about medicine? I can teach you,” he said.
Shi Jin was so scared he chose the wrong tiles in game. He quickly waved his hands, refusing: “No, no, absolutely not! Studying medicine would kill me.” Getting a Bachelor’s degree in medicine took five years—he didn’t even want to spend four years at university, let alone five! No way!
Uncle Long’s face darkened, and he glowered at Shi Jin. “Kill you? There’s nothing better than learning medicine! Not to mention, you’ll have me as a teacher—what are you afraid of?”
That’s the most scary part, you know?!
Shi Jin felt he had his back against the wall. He glanced at Lian Jun sitting behind his desk, then looked at the doctor and told the truth: “Uncle Long, actually… actually, my dream is to be a public servant!”
Uncle Long, suspecting he had heard wrong, frowned and asked, “What did you just say?”
Lian Jun also put down the file and looked up.
Shi Jin braced himself and continued doggedly, “In fact, if I can, I’d like to go to a police academy… I’ve always admired police officers.”
A gangster wanted to become a policeman.
Looking between Lian Jun and Shi Jin, Uncle Long opened his mouth, but he really didn’t know what to say. All of a sudden, he looked at Lian Jun again and repeated something Mr. Feng once said: “You’ve completely spoiled him!” In a huff, he turned around and stomped out of the study.
The study door slammed shut.
Shi Jin flinched at the sound. He turned to look at Lian Jun and asked, a little aggrieved, “Isn’t being a police officer good? Not only is it serving the country, it’s also an ‘iron rice bowl’ and I’d never have to worry about being paid.”
Lian Jun: “……”
“Don’t tell me you want me to study medicine, too?” Shi Jin asked in horror.
Helpless, Lian Jun put down the file and massaged the bridge of his nose. He looked at Shi Jin, easing his expression as he noticed the frightened look on Shi Jin’s face. “Do you really want to go to the police academy?” he asked.
Shi Jin was aware that with his current identity, attending the police academy seemed to be quite a strange choice, so he hedged, “I’m not set on it… After all, I’d have to attend seriously, not just appear for the end-of-term exams—it’s too inconvenient. I’ll just go to a normal university and study something easy. Later, after everything is settled, I’ll take a civil servant test or something.”
You say you’re not set on it, but the rest of your words say otherwise.
Lian Jun manoeuvred his wheelchair from behind the desk and stopped in front of the younger man. “You don’t want to be the boss of a company? I can set up a company for you. Four years in college would be enough for you to learn everything you need to know about management. I’ll also get you assistants, with their help, you won’t get too tired.”
Shi Jin hadn’t expected that Lian Jun had already thought about his future. He was a little moved but still shook his head. “No, I don’t need something like that, I just want to do some simple and stable… Do you think I’m not ambitious enough?”
“No.” Lian Jun shook his head as well, then stretched out his hand and gently pinched the teenager’s face. “There are too many people in this world who become blinded by riches and forget their original intentions little by little. You’re fine the way you are—you have no greed, so you won’t forget yourself in the foolish pursuit of benefits. Going to the police academy isn’t impossible, it will just take a bit of arranging. You can pursue whatever you like—I will support you no matter what.”
Shi Jin froze in shock. “I really can go to the police academy?”
Shi Jin’s look of pleasant surprise caused the corners of Lian Jun’s lips to rise without conscious thought. “Of course you can. Not only is Annihilation cooperating with the authorities, you haven’t been one of us for long, and you have a clean background. Attending police school should be no problem.”
This really was a surprise! Shi Jin hadn’t expected he’d have the chance to return to his old profession in his second life!
He stared at Lian Jun; his heart was bursting with all the things he wanted to say, but he didn’t know how to express them. In the end, he simply threw himself forward and hugged Lian Jun, his lips finding his lovers’.
After a moment of shock at the sudden attack, Lian Jun returned the hug with contentment, bowing his head to deepen the kiss.
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 next day, everyone knew that Shi Jin wanted to go to the police academy, and that Lian Jun had agreed.
On the way to the examination hall, Gua Two’s face looked like he was forced to eat shit. “I really want to drive the car into the ditch—it must be because of the college entrance exam, it must’ve turned you into a fool. Really, I hadn’t expected you to be a little traitor, Shi Jin.”
“I know you’re envious, but it’s fine—I’m a magnanimous person, I’ll overlook your shortcomings,” was Shi Jin’s gallant reply.
Gua Two wanted to cough blood. However, as he was driving and with Lian Jun present, he couldn’t catch Shi Jin to “lovingly educate him,” so he only muttered Little traitor again and continued to drive, smooth and steady.
Now that he had a clear plan for the future, the last of Shi Jin’s nervousness had disappeared without a trace. After the car stopped, he said goodbye to Lian Jun and headed towards the examination hall while bickering with Gua Two.
Another familiar voice came.
The smile on Shi Jin’s face stiffened. He stopped and turned to look at the owner of the voice.
In front of a minimarket on the street stood Xiang Aoting, wearing a black T-shirt and camo combat trousers and holding a bottle of water. He smiled a little cautiously when Shi Jin looked over and stepped forward to hand the bottle of water to him. “I heard you’re taking the college entrance exam, so I came to cheer you on.”
Shi Jin looked at the bottle with the plastic packaging and label meticulously torn off. He remembered his last meeting with Xiang Aoting before leaving B city last time, sighed in his heart, and reached out to take the water, thanking him politely. “Are you on leave?” he took the initiative to ask.
People in the military were always busy, and it wasn’t as if they could just take time off whenever they wanted. Xiang Aoting shouldn’t be able to just run over here as soon as he heard what was happening.
His youngest brother accepted the water and was willing to talk to him—Xiang Aoting’s expression relaxed a little. “Yes, I took a short leave. Second Brother said you were hurt a while ago, are you alright?”
Shi Jin really wanted to ask Fei Yujing just how many people he had told about his injury.
“Yes, it was nothing serious,” he replied succinctly. He didn’t know what more to say.
Both of the brothers fell silent.
Xiang Aoting hesitated for a moment, then began, “You and your boss…”
“Fourth Brother,” Shi Jin interrupted him. He said, gesturing towards the hall’s entrance, “The exam is about to start, I have to go in.”
The man closed his mouth. He shot a glance at the examination hall and encouraged him somewhat clumsily, “Don’t be nervous, just do your best.”
At last, it wasn’t ‘it’s fine even if you don’t do well.’ Relieved, Shi Jin smiled at Xiang Aoting as he bid him goodbye, then continued to the examination hall.
Gua Two followed. “Your brother lied to you,” he said, looking back at Xiang Aoting. “He’s wearing training clothes and his shoes and the legs of his pants are stained with mud. It’s obvious he was training before he came—he can’t be on leave.”
Shi Jin didn’t reply.
“I saw a military jeep in the alley over there with an H Province license plate, and isn’t that where your fourth brother is stationed? I guess he heard you were taking the exam and drove here over the night. What do you think?” Gua Two asked in a deliberately light tone, as if he was talking about the weather.
Shi Jin gave him a sideways glance, his face expressionless. “When I become a policeman, the first person I’m going to arrest is you.”
Gua Two raised his hands in surrender and stepped back pretending to be scared, miming zipping up his mouth.
Approaching the entrance, Shi Jin couldn’t help but look back at the place where Xiang Aoting stood. He hadn’t expected that his brother would still be there, watching him.
Xiang Aoting didn’t seem to expect that Shi Jin would turn back and look at him either. For a moment, he was stunned, then he raised his hand and pumped his fist, cheering him on.
Shi Jin’s grip tightened around the water bottle, which still held a trace of Xiang Aoting’s body heat, nodded to his brother, and turned back to enter the examination hall.
Soon, the door closed. After thinking for a moment, Gua Two walked back to Xiang Aoting.
Noticing him, the man’s expression turned inscrutable, but he watched him approach without saying anything.
“Do you smoke?” Gua Two stopped beside him and pulled out a cigarette case.
Xiang Aoting shook his head. “No, thank you,” he refused politely.
Gua Two didn’t insist and put the case back. Facing the examination hall, he put his hands into the pockets of his trousers and asked, “I’ve heard you want to transfer to another service branch—is it for Shi Jin?”
Xiang Aoting eyed him, frowning, but remembered who Lian Jun was; it was no surprise that one of his closest subordinates would know this information. “Not at all, I… The physical training in my old unit was lacking, it’s just that.”
You’re transferring from the air force to the army because you want to exercise more? Tell me another one, mate.
Gua Two didn’t expose him though, only gave him a lazy wave of his hand as a farewell and turned, ready to leave.
But Xiang Aoting called out to him, then asked, hesitant, “Has Shi Jin said which university he wants to go to? Is it in B city?”
Gua Two stopped and looked back at him—it was written all over Xiang Aoting’s face that he was concerned about Shi Jin’s future as well as worried about him. Out of the blue, an inexplicable thought flashed through his mind. “You should ask Shi Jin about that yourself,” he replied. “I have no right to breach his privacy.” With that, he turned and left, pondering something.
Judging from Shi Jin’s attitude just now, it was clear that he didn’t hate his fourth brother, and the man’s profession was a soldier. Gua Two didn’t know why, but he couldn’t help but feel that Xiang Aoting was the reason Shi Jin wanted to go to the police academy.
But it shouldn’t be? Shi Jin and his fourth brother aren’t that close, are they? Gua Two shook his head, throwing the conjecture out of his mind.
By the time Shi Jin finished his exam and exited the building, Xiang Aoting was no longer there.
Gua Two saw him glancing towards the minimarket and took the initiative to explain, “Xiang Aoting left soon after you entered the examination hall, looking as if he was in a rush. If you want to talk to him, you can call him.”
Shi Jin retracted his gaze and shook his head.
After lunch, Shi Jin, accompanied by Lian Jun, returned to the examination hall again, preparing to take the final exam of the college entrance examination.
The whole way, he kept feeling a little anxious, afraid that another brother would pop out like a jack in the box. After all, none of the remaining three brothers, Fei Yujing, Rong Zhouzhong, and Li Jiuzheng, were friendly to him; if one of them really did appear, he probably wouldn’t be able to get rid of them that easily.
Amid this faint worry, they arrived at the examination venue.
Before getting off, Shi Jin cautiously scanned the vicinity. Only after making sure that there was no one nearby who could be his brother, did he push the door open and head to examination hall, Gua Two in tow.
When he was about to pass through the entrance, the mobile phone in his pocket rang.
Frowning, he took it out—two big words, ‘Rong Zhouzhong,’ flashed on the screen.
“……” I just knew it.
Gua Two also heard the ringtone and came over to see. At the name of the caller, his eyebrows climbed up. “Your brothers are quite concerned about you,” he commented.
Yes, very concerned indeed.
Shi Jin rolled his eyes and hung up without taking the call.
Without missing a beat, the phone rang again.
Shi Jin continued to hang up, and then muted the phone.
Probably having figured out Shi Jin was determined not to answer, Rong Zhouzhong sent a text message instead. Its contents were straightforward and impactful: [Little bastard, you and Big Brother were photographed. Take care of it. In the future, don’t play brothers in such a crowded place, it’s troublesome.]
The phone pinged a few times—there came several messages with photos, all of them of Shi Weichong tearing off the label off the water bottle and handing it to Shi Jin. If one ignored their facial expressions, they really did look like loving brothers.
Seeing them, Gua Two said, “I told you Shi Weichong was trouble, didn’t I? See, you really had your pictures taken.”
Shi Jin: “……”
He closed the photos, sent a thank-you message to Rong Zhouzhong, then sent the pictures to Shi Weichong.
“Huh?” Gua Two raised his eyebrows, puzzled.
“It’s his fault, he should deal with it.” After sending the last message, Shi Jin turned off the phone and gave it to Gua Two, saying, “I’m going inside, please help me tell Jun-shao about the photos.”
Being sensible for once, Gua Two stopped talking at Shi Jin’s dull reaction, only making an ‘OK’ gesture. After watching him enter the examination hall, he glanced at the phone in his hand and went back to the car.
The last exam also passed smoothly. Shi Jin walked outside and headed for Gua Two. Accepting the phone the man returned to him and turning it on, he asked, “Did you tell Jun-shao?”
“Yes, I did. I have to say, your third brother really has wide connections in the media. We didn’t even have to do anything—before we could, he’d already made the photos disappear. Congratulations, it’s a success. You avoided the trouble making the headlines with your big brother would have brought you,” Gua Two replied, his tone very relaxed. Apparently, dealing with the sneak shots had been a breeze.
Shi Jin nodded to show he understood and checked the unread message that popped up. The sender was Shi Weichong, and the content was brief, only one sentence: [I will take care of it, do your best on the exam.]
He poked at the screen and thought for a moment, then sent another thank-you message to Rong Zhouzhong and Shi Weichong. Putting the phone in his pants pocket, he hurried to where Lian Jun was waiting.
To celebrate Shi Jin successfully finishing the college entrance examination, everyone held a small party for him when he returned.
Shi Jin was very happy—he promptly dumped his exam bag and partook with full enthusiasm.
After 9 o’clock, as Shi Jin pushed Lian Jun back to their room wondering if they could maybe be a little intimate that night, his progress bar went up without any warning, from 500 to 520.
Xiao Si was puzzled. <It’s strange. You haven’t done anything lately, JinJin, why would the progress bar rise all of a sudden?>
Shi Jin instantly lost all interest in bedroom activities. After wiping his face, he sent Lian Jun to the bathroom to wash and sat on the sofa to look at the progress bar in his head. He recalled everything that happened in the past two days and all the people he could’ve possibly offended. Then, a sudden thought hit him, and the expression on his face became somewhat hard to describe. He took out his mobile phone and sent a text message to Shi Weichong, asking: [Did your mother see the pictures of you talking to me in front of the examination hall?]
Shi Weichong’s reply was still very fast and brief: [Yes, don’t worry, I will deal with it.]
Distressed, Shi Jin heaved a sigh. It turned out his guess was correct.
The progress would never rise for no reason. In the afternoon, he was warned of the secretly taken photos, and in the evening, his bar jumped up—it was unlikely there was no relationship between those two things.
Not long ago, Xu Jie showed hostility towards him because Shi Weichong wanted to give him shares. Wouldn’t she be mad after seeing photos of Shi Weichong accompanying him during the exam?
What’s more, he was almost certain that the 50-point rise in the progress bar from when he returned to B city was also related to Xu Jie—the only person in B city he’d offended recently, even if only passively, was Shi Weichong’s mother.
Thinking of this, a suspicion appeared in his mind. “Xiao Si, would you say that the person behind the car accident which ultimately led to the original ‘Shi Jin’s’ death was Xu Jie?”
Surprised, Xiao Si stammered out, <N-no, she shouldn’t be, there’s no mention of Xu Jie in the plot.>
“But the novel was written from the original ‘Shi Jin’s’ perspective. Since young, ‘he’ was all but raised in a golden cage by Shi Xingrui and didn’t have much chance to contact Xu Jie; it’s no surprise ‘he’ wouldn’t know her. However, even if they didn’t have any contact, it doesn’t mean Xu Jie wouldn’t hurt ‘him’ because of conflicting interests.” At the start, Shi Jin had only mentioned his guess on a whim, but now that he thought about it further, it actually sounded reasonable. Turning serious, he continued, “Do you remember the timing of the car accident in the novel? It happened after ‘Shi Jin’ contacted Shi Xingrui’s old subordinates trying to make trouble for Shi Weichong and shake his status in the company. Xu Jie is Shi Weichong’s mother—that would be sufficient motive for her to act.”
After Shi Jin’s explanation, Xiao Si also thought this conjecture made sense. <JinJin, if Xu Jie really was behind the car accident, she must be a major lethal factor. How are you going to deal with her?>
Shi Jin’s expression froze. He thought of Shi Weichong and was struck dumb.
If Xu Jie did turn out to be a lethal factor, then he really didn’t know how to deal with her.
Win her over? Impossible. Xu Jie would never be won over by him and he could never just make peace and forgive her—it would be too unfair to the original ‘Shi Jin’ and his mother. So, use drastic means? But that meant antagonizing Shi Weichong. And if he and Shi Weichong went up against each other, wouldn’t his progress bar—which he had finally managed to lower to 500 with his blood, sweat, and tears—return to the dangerously high value it had in the beginning?
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