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Shi Jin put down the notebook and the photos. After a moment of thought, he asked, “Dean Jian, did my father and your son get in contact after that?”
The pride visible on Jian Chenghua’s face faded. His answer surprised Shi Jin. “They did. At the end of the second year after Jinwen and I came to B city, my old colleague from the municipal newspaper called me out of the blue. He said that they had received a letter from Shi Xingrui, but that it wasn’t a submission, and instead a personal letter for me… I was actually a little angry—I knew that the letter was probably written to Jinwen. I didn’t want Shi Xingrui to contact Jinwen again, but Jinwen had never stopped thinking about him, always worried that something had happened to him. I hesitated for a month, but in the end, I still asked my colleague for the letter and passed it to Jinwen.”
Shi Jin frowned.
The end of the second year after Jian Jinwen had gone to B city? Wasn’t Shi Xingrui in his final year of high school then? He recalled that it was around then when Shi Xingrui’s father’s health had deteriorated without warning.
His mood became complicated and he wasn’t sure what to say. It was obvious that Shi Xingrui was having a bad time but again had no place to vent his emotions, so he remembered Jian Jinwen, the gentle “sewage treatment plant”. At that time, Jian Jinwen had just undergone major surgery, it also hadn’t been long since he stopped hormone therapy. It was the most painful period in his life, yet before he could get through it, Shi Xingrui emotionally harassed him on top of everything else.
From an outsider’s point of view, Shi Jin really felt that Jian Jinwen must have been cursed with the worst kind of luck to have met Shi Xingrui.
Jian Chenghua’s expression grew clouded. Sighing, he said, “In the letter, Shi Xingrui explained that he missed the appointment and disappeared for so long because his father fell seriously ill, and that the whole year he’d been trying to get him treated. Now his father had been diagnosed with terminal cancer and could only live for another six months at most… Cancer, cancer again. Jinwen’s heart was soft—it was obvious he’d already been suffering enough at the time, but he still felt the need to comfort Shi Xingrui in turn…”
The old man paused and wiped his tears, clearly distressed for the Jian Jinwen of the past. He continued, “But what could I do? Jinwen was pitiful, but Shi Xingrui’s situation wasn’t good either. He’d lost his mother in middle school and now, before finishing high school, he was about to lose his father too. He was pitiful as well… By then, the internet had become popular. In the letter, Shi Xingrui gave Jinwen his instant messaging app ID, saying that if Jinwen forgave him, he should send him a message, that he’d always wait for Jinwen. When Jinwen saw it, he registered an account straight away… Since then, I no longer knew how often they contacted each other or what they talked about. Jinwen never brought their talks up by himself, and every time I asked, he said he had a good time chatting with Shi Xingrui, so I couldn’t inquire further.”
Shi Jin was dumbstruck again.
Instant messengers and chat software—how could he forget those things existed!
So it wasn’t that Shi Xingrui cut off all contact with Jian Jinwen, but that he switched to contacting him through the internet? No wonder the investigators couldn’t find anything—after all, many of the early chat software and messaging apps had long been shut down!
Oh my God. Shi Xingrui had always been in touch with Jian Jinwen. This, this… Shi Jin found he didn’t know what to say all of a sudden; he really hadn’t expected it at all.
Appearing unaware of the way his voice sank, the old man continued, “But Jinwen was my son—how could I miss the changes? Ever since he got back in touch with Shi Xingrui, he sighed more and more, and began to read books on psychology to research ways to relieve the pre-exam stress and psychological pressure of third-year students. I was uneasy; it might’ve been nosy of me, but I managed to get a look at their chat records—and I’m very glad I did because they were horrifying. In their conversations, Shi Xingrui came across like a madman, a schizophrenic patient: his messages would be polite and considerate, then they would turn full of hostility without any warning. He blamed fate, blamed society, and even blamed Jinwen. My heart ached—what sin did my poor son commit to deserve being abused so? The doctors said he had a few more years left to live at most—why did Shi Xingrui have to torment him like that?”
It was getting harder and harder to keep listening. Shi Jin guessed that Shi Xingrui had acted like that because the contradictory feelings he held for Jian Jinwen were warring in his heart; he was reluctant to give up Jian Jinwen’s concern and gentleness, but couldn’t accept Jian Jinwen’s appearance, or even gender. On top of that, it was then that Shi Xingrui’s father fell ill, so his feelings gradually turned twisted and his emotions became unstable.
But just like Jian Chenghua said, Jian Jinwen was completely innocent. He didn’t commit any sins, he didn’t do anything wrong—his only fault was being too kind.
Shi Jin sighed in his heart. He wanted to comfort the old man, who was suffering from reliving his memories, but didn’t know how. After a moment of consideration, he got up, poured a cup of warm water, and put it in his hand.
Jian Chenghua’s agitated mood calmed down soon after. His eyes had been blank as he stared into the distance, but they refocused to look at Shi Jin’s face. After a while, he said, “You really resemble Jinwen, not only your appearance, but also the expression in your eyes… You’re too soft-hearted, too soft-hearted…”
He muttered to himself for a while before returning to his senses. Wiping his face, he offered Shi Jin a sheepish smile. Once he drank some water, he continued, “After seeing those chat records, I hardened my heart for the first time and demanded Jinwen break off contact with Shi Xingrui, but for the first time, Jinwen was stubborn and refused to listen to me. In the end, we had a heart-to-heart talk and agreed that Jinwen would only help Shi Xingrui until Shi Xingrui passed the college entrance examination, and would stop contacting him after that.
“But that wasn’t what happened. Half a year later, Shi Xingrui had indeed passed the college entrance exam, achieving very good results. Jinwen was going to abide by our agreement and cut off contact with Shi Xingrui, but something happened—just after the exam, Shi Xingrui’s father passed away… Shi Xingrui began to send messages to Jinwen as if he were crazy, always during the night. Jinwen was afraid he’d take things too hard and perhaps do something stupid, so he kept patiently accompanying him, but with Jinwen’s physical condition, how could his body endure it?”
Jian Chenghua’s hand tightened unconsciously, and his face went tense. “I lost my temper with Jinwen, forcefully broke his contact with Shi Xingrui by confiscating his computer and mobile phone, and sent Shi Xingrui a strongly-worded message from Jinwen’s account. I really hadn’t been able to restrain myself—Jinwen didn’t have much time left, I didn’t want him to be exposed to so many negative emotions at the end of his life. I scolded Shi Xingrui, scolded a boy who had just lost his father, then begged him to let Jinwen go. I said that if things continued like they were, Jinwen’s life might fade away at any time. I just couldn’t bear it, that child was all I had.”
Shi Jin’s chest was stuffy, his heart filled with a deep sense of helplessness, like he could feel the pain both sides had suffered at that time. It was no wonder that Shi Xingrui seemed to be completely unaffected by the death of his parents, at least on the surface—it turned out that he’d dumped all the negative emotions on Jian Jinwen. During the day, he was an outstanding, tough young man, and at night, he turned into a devil who desperately vented his negativity onto others.
“Shi Xingrui agreed to my request,” Jian Chenghua said, his voice calming down again. “He agreed, apologized to me, then deleted his account; I helped Jinwen delete his account too. Jinwen was sad, but he was finally able to recuperate properly… Actually, I regretted it later on. They were still children back then, it was normal for them not to know how to deal with their problems in the right way, but I was an adult—I was supposed to know better. I shouldn’t have done that to them.”
“Dean Jian…” Shi Jin whispered.
The old man shook his head. “It’s nothing, this is all in the past. Later, I kept an eye on Shi Xingrui’s development and found that he was admitted to a university in B city. Life didn’t go bad for him. I told Jinwen about this. He seemed to be relieved, and never mentioned Shi Xingrui to me again, but I knew that he hadn’t stopped being concerned for him, it was just that he didn’t want me to worry. Actually… I suspect Shi Xingrui came to the hospital to see Jinwen.”
Shi Jin blinked, surprised, and hurried to ask, “When?”
“As I said, it’s only my suspicion. It was during the first semester of Shi Xingrui’s sophomore year at university. I had time off work and came to the hospital early. It was a beautiful day, so Jinwen and several other patients were enjoying the good weather in the small park in front of the hospital. On a bench in the corner, I saw a person resembling Shi Xingrui; Jinwen couldn’t see him from where he sat, but he had quite a clear view of Jinwen. But I could’ve been wrong—I only gave it a casual glance, and when I looked again, the bench was empty. When I asked Jinwen, he said he didn’t remember anyone sitting there. At that time, I hadn’t met Shi Xingrui, I only knew how he looked as an adult because I’d seen a photo of him on the news, so it’s possible I was mistaken.”
Jian Chenghua spoke about this with a frown, but he quickly relaxed his expression and continued, “Even if it really was him, it doesn’t matter. Anyway, about a month after that, Jinwen received a grant for medical treatment overseas and was admitted to a better hospital, a private one, which only allowed patients and their families on the premises. The management was indeed very strict—even if Shi Xingrui wanted to see Jinwen, he wouldn’t have been able to.”
Wait, there’s something suspicious about that timing.
Shi Jin calculated the dates—Jian Jinwen was transferred to this new hospital shortly before Shi Xingrui founded the Ruixing Corporation. Just prior to that, Shi Xingrui had gone on a trip abroad to meet with potential investors.
Coincidence? Or something more?
He couldn’t help but speculate. “Medical treatment grant?” he wondered. “Had you applied for one?”
Jian Chenghua shook his head. “No. It was because Jinwen met a good person. Jinwen used to help orphans and children from impoverished families. It so happened one of them became successful and moved abroad. That person heard that a certain foreign non-profit organization was setting up a large patient assistance fund. He knew Jinwen was sick, so, out of concern, he applied for it in Jinwen’s name. Surprisingly, Jinwen really was chosen. The organization was very thorough—they also sent a representative to arrange Jinwen’s hospital transfer and take care of everything that might come up, so the patient wouldn’t have to worry about anything.”
The more Shi Jin heard, the more suspicious he was. However, since Jian Chenghua looked moved and grateful for meeting such a great benefactor, it was impossible to question him straight out. For the lack of better options, he exclaimed, “Yes, that organization seems really conscientious, even going so far as to send someone to help arrange everything for the patient.”
“Right? And that person was actually Chinese, a talented student who had been admitted to a foreign university. After taking charge of Jinwen’s grant, he always tried his best to help Jinwen, and they soon became friends.” There was a hint of warmth in Jian Chenghua’s eyes; he must have really appreciated the man.
Shi Jin ventured, “Would it be possible for you to tell me the names of this non-profit organization and their representative…”
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 old man had no intention of hiding anything. He replied, “The organization doesn’t exist anymore, at least not in the same form. I only remember that at the time, it was called ‘Hope’ in Y country’s language. The representative’s name was Xu Chuan. He was a really nice boy. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen him since Jinwen died, and I don’t know how he’s doing now.”
Xu Chuan?! Shi Xingrui’s close confidant, that lawyer Xu Chuan?! Damn, I knew this whole thing couldn’t have been a coincidence!
Shi Jin was so shocked that he had to hurry and bow his head under the pretext of drinking water, so that his expression wouldn’t betray him. After taking a few sips and making sure he looked normal again, he looked up. “Dean Jian, had my father contacted your son since then?” he asked with some difficulty.
Jian Chenghua shook his head. “I don’t think so, but I can’t be sure. After entering the new hospital, I returned Jinwen’s computer and phone to him. I know that was often in contact with Xu Chuan at least; I regretted interfering in Jinwen’s matters last time so I didn’t ask. But at Jinwen’s funeral, I met Shi Xingrui in person for the first time. He was already a big boss, wearing an expensive suit, dignified and mature-looking. Honestly, if he didn’t take the initiative to talk to me, I wouldn’t have recognized him.”
Shi Jin’s eyes widened. “What did you talk about?” he rushed to ask.
“He apologized to me, saying that he was too foolish and naive when he was younger.” Jian Chenghua heaved a sigh. “I knew it would happen, but Jinwen’s death was still a shock to me; I was muddleheaded at the time and didn’t really talk to him much. He didn’t look very good, his face was haggard, and his eyes were a little scary. During our whole conversation, his gaze was fixed on Jinwen’s tombstone. In the beginning, he still sounded normal, but later his speech became chaotic—he said that he tried really hard and that he was ready to accept it, but that it was too late already, then he wondered how Jinwen could suddenly die and blamed Jinwen for not waiting for him. He sounded crazy. As I listened to him, I kept recalling that period when Jinwen was in the most pain, and I couldn’t stop myself from shouting at him…”
He paused. Shi Jin, intuition telling him that this was probably the point at which Shi Xingrui really began to fall into madness, prompted, “What did you say to him?”
The old man glanced at him, some guilt visible in his gaze. “I said, ‘If it wasn’t for you and your craziness, Jinwen definitely could’ve lived a few years longer’… His face turned ugly after he heard that, and a terrifying expression appeared in his eyes. It made me nervous, so I left. I shouldn’t have said something like that, it wasn’t right of me—for that, I owe your father an apology.”
Shi Jin fell silent for a long time before finally letting out a sigh.
He more or less understood why Shi Xingrui was so crazy in his later years. Despite the initial gender shock and appearance shock, Shi Xingrui couldn’t resist contacting Jian Jinwen again because of another family tragedy. The longer they were in contact, the deeper he fell, the less he was able to disentangle himself from his feelings. Then, on top of Jian Chenghua severing their connection, Shi Xingrui learned that Jian Jinwen’s condition was worsening again, because of him.
And so, his feelings were left suspended in the air; he could neither vent them nor deal with them by himself. He wasn’t willing to just cut off his connection with Jian Jinwen, but at the same time, he was afraid that his uncontrollable feelings and emotions would really kill Jian Jinwen. As if that wasn’t enough, he was still struggling with his sexual orientation. Under the triple pressure, he ended up forcing himself into a dead end.
Over the years, Shi Xingrui must have gone through a difficult battle in his heart. Perhaps he’d finally defeated his insecurities and decided to follow his heart and approach Jian Jinwen to figure out his own feelings—but then, Jian Jinwen suddenly died.
Shi Xingrui had no way of meeting Jian Jinwen anymore, nor could he unburden himself by expressing his feelings. Everything came to an abrupt end, like a song stopped by the snapping of a string. For a long time, Shi Xingrui rehearsed a torturous romance drama by himself, but when he finally decided to step onto the stage, the man he’d been secretly chasing after left, abandoning the play. Shi Xingrui was trapped yet again.
“He really was mad,” Shi Jin said, raising his hand to touch his face. “He went mad and never woke up again. Dean Jian, actually, I have five older half-brothers; all of their mothers more or less resemble your son. Even my mother, she…”
He paused with his mouth open, having remembered something as he talked. A shocking speculation appeared in his mind.
Jian Jinwen was an abandoned child who was adopted by Jian Chenghua. The original ‘Shi Jin’s’ mother, Yun Jin, also grew up in the orphanage. Not only were their appearances astonishingly similar, but both of them had the same character ‘Jin’ in their names. It could be a coincidence, but it was unlikely there would be so many coincidences in this world!
He looked at Jian Chenghua. Watching him with a very complicated expression, the old man said, “I didn’t expect that Shi Xingrui felt that way about Jinwen, and to the point of madness, too. You poor child… Alas, their relationship was indeed ill-fated, to even affect the next generation.”
Shi Jin lowered his head and drank a mouthful of water to stabilize his emotions. He coughed to loosen his tight throat, then asked, “Can you please tell me if it was you who gave your son his name?”
This question baffled Jian Chenghua, but he still replied. “Yes, it was me. When he was still in the orphanage, he only had a nickname one of the staff members gave him, DiuDiu. I thought the name sounded unpleasant, so I changed it.”
[T/N: DiuDiu – 丢丢. The character 丢 means to discard (among other things), so the staff basically called Jinwen “little foundling”. (Wiktionary)]
Shi Jin took a cold breath.
If Jian Jinwen’s name was given to him by Jian Chenghua, then the origin of Yun Jin’s name seemed even more suspicious!
Was Yun Jin not someone who Shi Xingrui came across by accident, but a perfect substitute he’d discovered a long time earlier? Then, after changing her name, he secretly moved her into an orphanage under his control and waited for her to grow up?
It was sickening!
Noticing that Shi Jin’s expression didn’t look right, Jian Chenghua frowned. “What’s wrong?”
Shi Jin didn’t know how to explain, so he just took out his phone and opened a picture of ‘Shi Jin’s’ mother to show to the old man. “This is my mother. She was an orphan and her name was Yun Jin.”
Bewildered, Jian Chenghua looked down. Seeing Yun Jin’s face, his eyes snapped wide open and he grabbed the phone. “This, this is your mother?” he stammered out, shocked. “What did you say her name was?”
“Yun Jin, her name was Yun Jin.” Shi Jin withdrew his hand and asked bluntly, “Dean Jian, what was the name of the orphanage you adopted Mr. Jian from? I’d like to find out who his biological parents are. I suspect… I suspect there was some kind of a blood relationship between Mr. Jian and my mother.”
Jian Chenghua was stunned for a while. Once he digested the teenager’s words, he hurried to stand, found a set of old but well-preserved papers, and carefully handed them to Shi Jin. “This is Jinwen’s adoption certificate and forms… you, you…”
Shi Jin took them and said, “I’ll make a copy of them and return them to you. Thank you for all your help today.”
Jian Chenghua waved his hand to dismiss his thanks. Looking at Shi Jin’s face, he opened his mouth several times, wanting to say something, but in the end, he closed it without a word.
The orphanage had a photocopier. Jian Chenghua personally copied the documents for Shi Jin, then accompanied him to the orphanage’s gate to send him off.
Before Shi Jin left, Jian Chenghua stopped him and asked a strange question: “Are you alright?”
Shi Jin looked at him for a second, uncomprehending, but he soon figured out what the old man was asking. Bending his arm to display his firm muscles, he said, “I’m great! I can easily run five kilometers in one go. I just took the college entrance exam. I’m going to attend a police academy—my dream is to become a policeman.”
Jian Chenghua smiled at him, but his eyes were red. “Being a policeman is good, it’s best for a boy to have a strong body… Can you let me know if you find out anything about your mother? Jinwen’s life was so short, if there’s a younger generation…” He broke off, knowing that his words were a bit out of place.
But Shi Jin didn’t mind. “Of course,” he replied with a smile. “If the news is good, I’ll accompany you to visit Mr. Jian’s grave, to light incense for him and pay my respects.”
Jian Chenghua’s face brightened at once. Eyes filled with gratitude, he nodded eagerly. “Yes, good, thank you, thank you.”
Seeing the old man like that, Shi Jin felt his nose turn sour. He said a polite, “You’re welcome,” got in the car, and motioned for Gua Two to leave.
Gua Two started the car straight away.
Shi Jin looked into the rearview mirror, watching Jian Chenghua turn into a small dark spot, and the smile on his face slowly collapsed. He let out a long breath and hugged Lian Jun’s waist sideways.
“What’s wrong?” Lian Jun asked softly, patting his back.
“No, nothing… I just think it’s good to be healthy.” For a moment, Shi Jin just breathed in his familiar smell. Then, as he caught sight of the progress bars in his mind, he bolted upright again. “Did Uncle Long arrange your health check? For when? How is it going with the poison formula, will we have the results soon?”
Witnessing the teenager’s fluctuating mood, Lian Jun guessed that what Jian Chenghua told him must have been unpleasant. Stroking Shi Jin’s back to soothe him, he replied, “The health check has been scheduled for tomorrow, the hospital has been informed. As for the poison—once the current stage of research is finished, the doctor will be able to start arranging treatment. It will be very soon, you don’t have to be anxious.”
Shi Jin’s expression relaxed a bit. He took Lian Jun’s hand and said seriously, “I’m not anxious. We shouldn’t rush, it’s fine even if the process is slow—our goal isn’t to get rid of the poison all at once, but to eradicate it completely.”
“Okay, then let’s take things slowly,” Lian Jun agreed, trying to calm the teenager’s unstable mood.
After his agitated emotions settled down, Shi Jin recounted Jian Chenghua’s story. He took out the adoption papers when he was finished, saying, “I want to get information about Jian Jinwen’s biological parents and check if he and my mother are connected in any way. Oh, and could you please send people to protect Jian Chenghua? I’m afraid of some accident happening to him, and he’s not young anymore.”
Lian Jun took the documents. “All right, I’ll ask someone to take care of it.”
“Thank you.” Shi Jin smiled at him. “Actually, there’s one more thing…”
“I’d like to see Xu Chuan,” Shi Jin said, feeling his agitation returning. “That time when he saw me, his reaction was really strange—I’ve always thought that he knows something. I want to talk to him and see if he doesn’t let something slip.”
Lian Jun touched the younger man’s cheek. “It’s not impossible. I’ll contact the officials and arrange it for you.”
Shi Jin looked at him, his agitation disappearing as if blown away by an early summer breeze—hugging his lover’s “golden thigh” felt so good.
He snapped out of his daze and captured Lian Jun’s hand, lowering his head as he focused on massaging the beautiful, slender fingers.
Lian Jun always helped him—he wanted to repay him somehow.
But how? He seemed to have nothing he could give in return.
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