Notice Temporarily unedited, read at your own risk
“Are you feeling better, Xiao Jin?”
“Why did you get out of bed?”
“What? Xiao Jin is here? Wait, let me just wipe my face.”
Everyone in the kitchen looked towards the door, then stopped what they were doing and came over to greet Shi Jin. Rong Zhouzhong couldn’t see because of the onion burn and frantically dabbed at his eyes with a paper towel, trying to quickly get rid of the pain.
Briefly responding to everyone’s greetings, Shi Jin bypassed Shi Weichong and Fei Yujing and walked over to Rong Zhouzhong. “Are you trying to blind yourself?” he asked, pushing Rong Zhouzhong’s head down and pulling the hand with the paper towel away from his face.
“Wha… Ah!” Rong Zhouzhong began, then yelped as Shi Jin splashed a handful of water on his face. “What are you doing, little bastard!”
He tried to lift his head, but Shi Jin held it down. “Don’t move.” He wet a paper towel and carefully scrubbed his brother’s eyes, then released Rong Zhouzhong’s head, grabbed his hands instead, and thoroughly washed them with soap. “Honestly. Don’t you know not to touch your eyes while cutting onions? I’d like to call you an idiot but that would be a compliment. All right, done.” He stuffed a few paper towels into Rong Zhouzhong’s hands. “Now go stand somewhere where you’ll be out of everyone’s way and don’t touch any more onions today.”
When Shi Jin started washing his eyes, Rong Zhouzhong became quiet and obedient. Now, he looked up, face wet and speckled with paper towel crumbs, and abruptly grabbed Shi Jin in a bear hug. “Little bastard, you’re not cute at all!” he said through clenched teeth, rubbing Shi Jin’s hair with force. “You asshole, you actually dared to touch my hair. Don’t you know how important an actor’s hair is? Huh?”
Shi Jin was taken by surprise, and his hair turned into a bird’s nest before he reacted. He grabbed Rong Zhouzhong’s hand, stopping it from doing further damage, and took immediate revenge by messing up his brother’s hair in turn. “I help you and this is how you repay me? You ungrateful wretch, I should’ve just let you become blind!”
Rong Zhouzhong was naturally no opponent to him, and his painstaking hairstyle was soon demolished. Furious and exasperated, he yanked away Shi Jin’s hand. “Stop it! Get away! It’s ruined, it’s completely ruined now!”
Shi Jin had no mercy, though, and didn’t let his brother go until his hair was completely messy. “Serves you right!” he snorted, then turned around and hugged Xiang Aoting.
Xiang Aoting was stunned, and so were the others.
“Thank you for your birthday present, Fourth Brother, I loved it.” Shi Jin patted Xiang Aoting on the back, thanking him with a smile.
Xiang Aoting snapped out of his daze and hugged him too. “I’m happy you liked it. Is your fever fine now? How are you feeling?”
“I’m better now, the fever has gone down,” Shi Jin replied, releasing him. He glanced at Shi Weichong, who was standing to the side.
Shi Weichong had been watching him quietly. Seeing Shi Jin look over, he instinctively avoided his gaze, but immediately got ahold of himself and smiled at Shi Jin, greeting him in a warm voice: “Xiao Jin, we haven’t seen each other for a while.”
It’s been quite a bit longer than “a while”… Feeling a rapid surge of emotions, Shi Jin clenched his hand. He stepped forward to give Shi Weichong a hug, and quickly let go before his emotions overflowed. “I don’t hate ginger, Big Brother. I’m not a very picky eater, you don’t need to be so careful,” he said, smiling back at him.
Shi Weichong was about to hug him, but as he raised his hand, there was suddenly nowhere to put it. His eyes dimmed for a second, and he quickly covered up his action, turning it into helping Shi Jin straighten his shirt. “I see, I’ll remember.”
Shi Jin smiled at him again, then turned to Fei Yujing.
Fei Yujing opened his arms. “Do you want to hug? I actually don’t hate the ‘siblings happily reunited after years’ trope.”
‘Siblings happily reunited after years,’ my ass!
Throwing him a disgusted glance, Shi Jin stepped forward and hugged him for exactly two seconds before pushing him away. “Second Brother, the way you wash vegetables is too awful to look at.”
Fei Yujing laughed, not minding Shi Jin’s dislike, and lowered his hands. “Nevertheless, I think I’m still much better to watch than Third and Fourth.”
“Hey!” Rong Zhouzhong protested.
“I’m definitely more proficient in washing vegetables than Second Brother,” Xiang Aoting rebutted, joining in the quibbling for once.
Shi Jin watched them bicker with a smile. Finally, clenching his hands to maintain his composure, he looked at Li Jiuzheng, who had kept standing in front of the chopping board and never moved a step.
Li Jiuzheng was looking at them. Seeing Shi Jin glance over, he immediately lowered his head and tugged at his sweater as if trying to hide the bloodstains.
“Xiao Jin,” Xiang Aoting called out softly.
“It’s alright.” Shi Jin gave him a reassuring smile, then walked over to Li Jiuzheng. “Fifth Brother.”
Li Jiuzheng stiffened and peeked at him sideways.
Shi Jin smiled and hugged him, lightly patting his back. “It’s fine even if your clothes get dirty, just change into clean ones. Your hands, too—it doesn’t matter if they’re dirty, just wash them. You can… and so can I.”
So it was no big deal. Compared with facing that person at knifepoint, hugging was certainly not as hard. He could do it.
“Xiao Jin…” Li Jiuzheng’s voice was trembling a little. He wanted to hug Shi Jin back, but when he raised his hands, he remembered they were covered with blood and slowly let them drop. Lowering his head to hide his reddened eyes, he whispered, “I’m sorry… If I hug you, I’ll make your clothes even more dirty…”
“It doesn’t matter, I’ll just change into clean ones.” Shi Jin released him and gave him another smile, then looked around at everyone. “Okay, you guys continue cooking, I’ll go wash and change clothes. I’ve been sleeping for too long and I feel positively rancid.” Without waiting for anyone’s reaction, he walked to the kitchen door and reached for Lian Jun’s hand.
Lian Jun immediately took his hand and stepped forward to block him from sight. After nodding to the brothers, he promptly took Shi Jin away.
Death Progress Bar is translated by Betwixted Translations. Read on the original translator’s site to get the fastest updates!
It was only after the hot water poured over his body that Shi Jin’s confusion and chaotic feelings subsided a little. He looked at Lian Jun, who was helping him bathe, and wrapped his arms around him, rubbing against him affectionately.
Lian Jun’s hand pressed against the small of his back. “Have you warmed up?” he asked.
“Yeah, thanks to my Darling’s tender loving care,” Shi Jin sweet-talked, kissing the side of his neck.
Lian Jun let him kiss and continued to gently stroke his hair and back.
The bath took a full hour to finish. Clean and refreshed, Shi Jin walked to the wardrobe, pulled out one of Lian Jun’s Chinese robes, and put it on. He breathed in his lover’s scent, contented, then poked Xiao Si in his mind: “Does the Great Compassion Mantra exist in this world? If so, please play it in a loop in my mind. If it doesn’t, play children’s songs—the more silly, the better. Keep playing them, don’t stop.”
The abrupt request frightened the system. < Jin-JinJin, what’s happened to you? > it stammered out in panic. < You aren’t crazy, aren’t you? You’re scaring me… >
“As if I would let myself become crazy when I have Lian Jun. Just play them—you don’t want my psychological state to become wrong during the dinner, right?” Shi Jin appeased Xiao Si. He was about to close the wardrobe’s door when he thought about something, pulled it open again, and took out one of his sweaters, a navy blue one.
Lian Jun, who had never left his side, glanced at the sweater, then raised a hand and stroked Shi Jin’s hair.
Shi Jin looked back at him and smiled. “When the reunion dinner is over, let me tell you a story,” he said.
Lian Jun caressed the upturned corner of his mouth and leaned in to kiss him. “Okay.”
If you’re seeing this notice, you’re reading this chapter on pirate site – the original translator of Death Progress Bar is Betwixted Translations.
By the time Shi Jin returned to the kitchen, cooking had officially begun. Xiang Aoting was the head cook, Shi Weichong his assistant, Fei Yujing and Rong Zhouzhong were responsible for food serving the food and the cleanup, and Li Jiuzheng was watching over the pot of soup. He was only wearing a shirt now, his sweater gone.
Rong Zhouzhong dropped the third plate. Fei Yujing closed his eyes, telling himself to be patient. “Third, you…”
“Shut up! I was just careless,” Rong Zhou interrupted him, angry and embarrassed.
Fei Yujing took a deep breath, then turned away to pick up the pieces of the plate. “I really can’t believe that you and I actually share half of our genes. You…”
“I can’t believe it either,” Shi Jin said as he stepped into the kitchen. He glanced at the assortment of deep-fried dim sum and spring rolls on the table, praised that they looked pretty good, then walked to Li Jiuzheng and patted him from behind.
Li Jiuzheng immediately turned to look at him, his eyes widening a little, then his gaze moved lower, taking in the Chinese robe he wore.
“Here.” Shi Jin handed him over the sweater in his hand. “The heating in the club is not set on too high. You’ll be cold in just a shirt. This is my sweater, you can wear it if you don’t mind.”
Li Jiuzheng looked at the sweater, his eyes widening even more. After a moment, he took it and held it tightly. “Thank you… Xiao Jin.”
“It’s nothing.” Shi Jin’s mind was filled with the melody of a children’s song. It made him feel like he was a kindergarten teacher facing a group of naughty children who had done something wrong, filled with kindness and loving patience. It wasn’t hard to bear at all.
Suddenly, a noise could be heard from Rong Zhouzhong’s side. Shi Jin turned his head to look and saw that the thin cardigan his third brother wore was full of dark water stains. Rong Zhouzhong put down the glass, saying falsely, “Oh dear, I accidentally spilled water on myself and now my clothes are all wet. Can you lend me something to wear, Xiao Jin?”
Li Jiuzheng’s expression sank like a stone. He quickly put on the dark blue sweater that Shi Jin gave to him, then leaned down and pulled out his own orange sweater, which seemed to have experienced some indescribable things and now looked like a dirty rag, from a corner. He strode to Rong Zhouzhong and shoved the sweater in front of his face, saying, “Here, you can borrow this.”
Rong Zhouzhong was stunned for a second, then exploded at once, hurriedly fending off Li Jiuzheng’s hand. “Who the hell wants to borrow your garbage stinking of fish? Get this thing away from me!”
“Aren’t your clothes wet? Put it on, hurry up.” Li Jiuzheng grabbed his shoulder, dead set on making him change into it.
As they wrestled with each other, they bumped into Xiang Aoting, standing by the stove. At that moment, Xiang Aoting was seasoning the stir fry dish; when he was pushed, he accidentally poured a big pile of salt into the pan, making its contents fit only to be thrown away.
A pulsing vein popped up on Xiang Aoting’s forehead. Having reached the end of his forbearance, he put down the spatula, grabbed both of the troublemakers, dragged them to the door, and threw them out.
“Don’t come into the kitchen again until you calm down!”
He slammed the door close and turned to glance at the people who were still in the kitchen.
“It was about time,” Fei Yujing commented, resuming washing the dishes.
Shi Weichong generously tried to excuse Rong Zhouzhong: “Third Brother has never done any housework. It’s understandable that he’ll be clumsy when he’s rushing.”
Shi Jin looked at Xiang Aoting’s rare angry appearance, a children’s version of the ending theme song from a well-known TV series about hero outlaws playing in his mind, and he couldn’t help laughing. He rolled up his sleeves and stepped forward, saying, “How many dishes have you prepared already? I’ll give you a hand—Lian Jun might not be able to eat what you made, he has to avoid certain foods.”
The brothers: “……” Ah, this sudden feeling of suffocation in my chest.
Outside the kitchen.
Rong Zhouzhong and Li Jiuzheng stood side by side in front of the door. They stared at each other for a moment, then looked at Lian Jun.
“Let’s go in and chat?” Lian Jun suggested, inclining his head towards the living room.
Rong Zhouzhong squeezed out a few drops of water from his cardigan. “Okay, but I have to change my clothes first,” he said, throwing a glance at Li Jiuzheng, who quieted down after being thrown out of the kitchen.
Li Jiuzheng suddenly came to life, throwing the “rag” in his hand over Rong Zhouzhong’s body.
Rong Zhouzhong’s eyebrows jumped. He grabbed Li Jiuzheng’s neck, then attempted to beat him up.
Lian Jun: “……”
Death Progress Bar is translated by Betwixted Translations. Read on the original translator’s site to get the fastest updates!
After a busy and “lively” afternoon spent in the kitchen, when it got dark, the reunion dinner (cooked by Xiang Aoting and his sous-chef Shi Weichong, with Shi Jin lending a hand when needed) was finally served. There were twenty dishes in total, including fish, meat, soup, and desserts—just like the proper reunion dinner should look like.
Everyone took their seats at the dining table. Lian Jun and Shi Jin were naturally inseparable, Shi Weichong and Fei Yujing were sitting together, and Xiang Aoting was sitting between Rong Zhouzhong and Li Jiuzheng on the other side. The scene looked warm and harmonious.
“In the coming year, may we all be safe, healthy, and peaceful.” Shi Jin got up and poured a glass of wine for his brothers and himself, then poured a cup of hot soybean milk for Lian Jun. Raising his glass, he toasted, “It’s a bit early, but happy Lunar New Year, everyone!”
The brothers looked at the wine glasses in front of them, a bit dazed—this was the first time they were entertained by Shi Jin as guests in this kind of adult-like, respectful manner. It was a very novel experience.
Fei Yujing was the first one to snap out of it. He rose to his feet and clinked his glass against Shi Jin’s. “Cheers, Happy New Year.”
Shi Jin smiled.
Rong Zhouzhong stood up second, followed by Xiang Aoting and Shi Weichong, and finally, Li Jiuzheng.
Everyone clinked our glasses together and drank to a happy new year. Wine swaying in the glasses, the aroma of food filling the air… There really was a feeling of joy, warmth, and nostalgia, of a family reuniting and celebrating the New Year together.
After the toast, Shi Jin turned and clinked his glass against Lian Jun’s cup, then lifted his head and drank the wine in one gulp. “May we have this day every year in the future!”
‘May we have this day every year in the future,’ what a wonderful sentence.
The brothers looked at him, then drank down their wine one after another, all kinds of indescribable feelings filling their hearts—if not for Shi Jin’s big heart, there was no way they would ever have this dream-like “today”.
“What an idiot,” Rong Zhouzhong muttered suddenly, turning his head to the side and forcefully rubbing his eyes.
Shi Jin was experiencing a rush of heat brought by downing the wine and didn’t hear Rong Zhouzhong’s whisper. After it passed, he sat and picked up his chopsticks, urging with a smile, “Alright, dig in, folks. Let’s have a good taste of Fourth Brother’s cooking, shall we?”
At his words, everyone took their seats and began to eat. For a while, the only sound heard in the dining room was the noise of chopsticks hitting the bowls. The atmosphere became a little flat and awkward.
For the Shi family, the meaning of this reunion dinner was much more than just a simple family gathering. Everyone unconsciously became lost in their own thoughts.
Seeing this, Shi Jin wanted to say something to liven up the atmosphere, but Lian Jun squeezed his hand.
“Don’t force yourself,” Lian Jun whispered in his ear. He turned to Shi Weichong and said, “I got a message from Gua Eight, saying that the business integration between Annihilation and Ruixing is going well. He sent me a new plan. Have you seen it?”
Shi Weichong didn’t expect Lian Jun to take the initiative to start a conversation, and it took him a moment to react. Suppressing the mix of emotions aroused by this reunion dinner, he replied, “No, I haven’t checked my mailbox these past two days. I’ll have a look at it later.”
Lian Jun nodded, then looked at Fei Yujing. “Are you busy recently, Mr. Fei? The business integration involves an overseas business that deals with alternative energy sources. I heard you’ve handled a case concerning a company developing an alternative energy source before. If you’re available, I’d like to ask you to come and lend us a hand.”
“Gladly, but I’ll be free only after the new year. The end of the year means the companies prepare annual reports, and I also have a performance review, so I’ll be quite busy before then.”
“We’ll get in touch with you after the New Year, then,” Lian Jun concluded the topic.
Shi Weichong was a little surprised. “An overseas business that deals with alternative energy sources? Is this what the new plan is about?”
“Yes,” Lian Jun said. “This business is of major importance, and both of you may have your hands full with it for a while. Would you like to take a look at the plan in advance, Mr. Fei?”
“Yes, the sooner the better, so I have sufficient time to prepare,” Fei Yujing replied.
The three of them casually began chatting about the development of renewable energy sources, immediately changing the unnaturally silent atmosphere. Stunned, Shi Jin stared at Lian Jun’s handsome profile, then his mood suddenly soared.
—Sure enough, his Darling was the most dependable, considerate, caring, and gentle person ever!
Eyes narrowing in a smile, Shi Jin squeezed Lian Jun’s hand under the table. He got up and moved all the dishes he made closer to Lian Jun, happily helping him put the food on his plate.
Seeing this, Rong Zhouzhong had a flashback to the times he was eating with them on the island, and felt his teeth ache. “You little bastard blinded by love!” he muttered angrily.
Shi Jin heard and gave him a death glare. “The guy who didn’t help out at all has no right to speak. Be quiet and eat your onions!”
“You!” Rong Zhouzhong was furious but had no words to refute. He grabbed a fried sesame ball made by Shi Jin with his chopsticks, stuffed it whole into his mouth, and chewed hard as if venting his anger.
Shi Jin let out a triumphant snort, then looked at Xiang Aoting sitting next to Rong Zhouzhong, gesturing towards a plate of chicken wings. “Fourth Brother, try my cooking too. I remember you liked BBQ wings.”
Xiang Aoting hummed affirmatively, helping himself to a chicken wing. “I didn’t expect you’d remember what I like to eat, Xiao Jin.”
Not just you—the original ‘Shi Jin’ memorized the favorite dishes of all of you.
The scene of the certain family gathering together and celebrating the New Year with fake happy smiles flashed in Shi Jin’s mind, making his fists clench. He glanced sideways at Lian Jun’s face, taking strength in the sight. After he regained his composure, he turned to Li Jiuzheng, who’d been silent since the beginning of the meal, and put a plate of glutinous rice snacks in front of him.
Li Jiuzheng looked up at him.
“You seemed to like this… But sticky rice desserts can cause indigestion, so you shouldn’t eat too many,” Shi Jin exhorted.
Li Jiuzheng’s lips moved soundlessly. Suddenly, a determined expression appeared on his face, and he began, “Xiao Jin, I…”
Without warning, Rong Zhouzhong leaned to the side, bypassing Xiang Aoting, and speared a glutinous rice dessert on the plate in front of Li Jiuzheng with his chopsticks.
Li Jiuzheng stopped speaking and stared at the skewered snack, his face drawing taut. He threw Rong Zhouzhong a dark look, then picked up one of the vinegar dipping bowls and poured all of its contents into Rong Zhouzhong’s bowl.
Xiang Aoting was sandwiched between the two, and several pulsing veins popped up on his forehead. He grabbed both miscreants’ by the shoulders, restraining them, and growled, “Stop it or I’ll throw you out again. Calm down and eat your meal!”
Rong Zhouzhong snorted coldly and took back his chopsticks, also taking the glutinous rice snack skewered on them. He shoved it into his mouth and chewed in an exaggerated manner, staring at Li Jiuzheng provocatively.
Li Jiuzheng, with a murderous look on his face, abruptly picked up his glass. “Drinking match?”
“Sure. Bring it on!” Rong Zhouzhong replied, vaguely because his mouth was still full of the sticky rice snack.
Xiang Aoting had had enough and stopped bothering about them. He picked up his tableware and moved to sit next to Shi Jin, leaving the two free to monkey around all they wanted.
Shi Jin looked at Xiang Aoting, amused. “Compared with Third Brother, you’re more like an older brother. Third Brother is just too childish.”
Xiang Aoting glanced at him. “I’m not.” None of them was. Everyone was being taken care of by the youngest brother—they couldn’t be regarded as proper older brothers at all.
The atmosphere slowly became lively. Shi Weichong and Fei Yujing chatted with Lian Jun about business, Li Jiuzheng and Rong Zhouzhong for some inexplicable reason competed in drinking, and Xiang Aoting and Shi Jin praised each other’s cooking skills. Some people were having fun and some were making trouble, but everyone looked relaxed.
During the gaps in conversation, Lian Jun was eating a bite or two of the dishes Shi Jin prepared. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the teenager excitedly talking with Xiang Aoting about the food ingredients, and the corners of his mouth rose. He looked at Shi Weichong and Fei Yujing, ready to resume the conversation, but the two men stopped talking at some point and were watching Shi Jin just like him.
After a few seconds, Shi Weichong and Fei Yujing also turned their gazes back.
The three looked at each other, then tacitly continued discussing the previous topic.
There were some things understood without being stated. Every one of them was here today simply because of one reason: to make that person happy.
Rong Zhouzhong, already half-drunk, also saw Shi Jin chatting happily with Xiang Aoting and tsk-ed with envy and disgust. He turned back to Li Jiuzheng, who was unconsciously staring at Shi Jin, and gave him a knock on the head. “Stop always showing that dead look,” he said, pouring the other man a drink. “Today is a reunion dinner. Do you know the meaning of reunion dinner, you silly kid?”
Li Jiuzheng touched the place that was hit. He remembered that Shi Jin gave a knock on the head like this, too. Lowering his gaze, he whispered, “I don’t know… Third Brother, I don’t know what shoud I do. Nobody ever taught me.”
“If you don’t know, study and learn.” Rong Zhouzhong knocked on his head a few more times, venting his annoyance. “I don’t know who did you inherit your inflexibility from, you don’t know how to adapt at all… You’d better manage to learn while Xiao Jin is still willing to give everyone a chance. It won’t do for an older brother to be more fragile than a younger brother. Though it might not be easy for you, it’s definitely even harder for Xiao Jin, you know.”
Li Jiuzheng’s hands clenched. Suddenly, he grabbed the liquor bottle and began chugging it down.
Rong Zhouzhong was so frightened he dropped his chopsticks. He rushed to snatch the bottle back, scolding angrily, “This is baijiu! I’ve really been trying to talk sense into an idiot… Put it down! I told you it’s baijiu, put that bottle down right now!”