Death Progress Bar

Chapter 27 - Dinner

Chapter 27: Dinner

Edited by Bet from Betwixted Translations

Xiang Aoting and his team hid in a nearby abandoned farmhouse. When the three cars rushed out one after another, and there were gunshots, he knew something was wrong. As he was about to go find out what happened, he received Shi Jin’s text.

In an instant, his expression changed. He took out the locator and checked Shi Jin’s position. He confirmed it was moving quickly, he ordered the other team members to act and ran towards the car hidden behind a large stack of firewood.

The sky was already dark, and not only did the village have no streetlights, but the roads were narrow. It made driving at night very challenging.

The van Pockmarked Yuan drove was large and cumbersome, which made them no more than a sitting duck. The man was both angry and anxious. There was nowhere to hide—they were surrounded by flat, open farmland. He shouted to Shi Jin in an urgent tone, “Quick, shoot at them! Make them stop!”

In his mind, Shi Jin cursed at him like a trooper. He would never make things easier for the trafficker, so he put up a terrified expression and wailed, “Brother Liu, Ah cain’t do dat! Jes now da bull’t flew through muh her, Ah’m skerred! Ah hain’t doin’ dis any longer, Ah’m goin’ home! Ah wanna see muh Ma!”

“…Fuck! You’re useless!” Pockmarked Yuan snarled, nearly apoplectic with anger. He hit the steering wheel in fury, but had no choice but to grit his teeth and speed up even more. He wanted to get to a populated part of the village and use the residents for cover.

Shi Jin huddled in the backseat. Pockmarked Yuan paid no attention to him, so he pulled out his miniature phone and called Xiang Aoting.

His older brother answered right away. {How are you? I’m coming to pick you up. Take care of yourself until we get there.}

“Ma, Ah wanna go home, waah, waah…” Shi Jin pretended to cry. After taking a quick look at Pockmarked Yuan, he hid his face behind the pickle jar and sobbed into the phone, “Ma, Ah gits da money fer Brother’s wedding, Ah wanna go home… Dat nice fella be with me in da car, ya comes an’ gits us quick! It’s awful ahere!”

Xiang Aoting was strangely silent for two seconds. He stepped on the gas pedal even harder and replied, “Don’t be afraid, I’ll be there soon. Don’t attack Pockmarked Yuan, just try to protect yourself.”

Shi Jin continued to bawl.

After they gained a little distance from their pursuers, Pockmarked Yuan glanced back and finally noticed Shi Jin seemed to talk to someone. He shouted angrily, “Who are you talking to?! Where did you get the phone?”

Shi Jin did not hang up in panic, but lifted the pickle jar and wailed with a wronged expression, “Ah tawks t’ muh pickles, cain’t Ah? Them be muh Ma’s best pickles! Ah’m agonna t’ be kilt, I hafta says goodbye t’ muh Ma!”


Right at that moment, a bullet pierced the rear window and struck the center of the pickle jar, making it explode spectacularly.

It frightened Shi Jin so much he almost cried for real. He tucked his arms closer to his body and did not dare fool around anymore, deciding to behave himself and wait for rescue like a good little crybaby.

Showered in shards of glass and pickles, Pockmarked Yuan almost drove into the ditch again. The last thread of reason in his mind snapped. Not caring about Shi Jin any longer, he glared at the cars behind them. He rummaged through his coat and fished out something small and oval-shaped. He pulled the pin out with his teeth, opened the car window and threw the thing behind them.

Son of a bitch!

Shi Jin was struck dumb when he saw the trafficker take out the grenade. He furtively scanned Pockmarked Yuan’s body up and down—did the man have a pocket dimension filled with all the necessities of a villain?


The explosion came from behind, and the rain of bullets let up. Pockmarked Yuan rushed straight into an open space at the other end of the village. As he was preparing to move onto the highway, two beams of light illuminated the area ahead. A dark SUV flew out from a side road, blocking his way.

“Fuck! Watch how you drive, you dickhead!” Blinded by the headlights, Pockmarked Yuan stomped on the brakes hard to avoid hitting the other vehicle. He shoved his head out the window and shouted, “You blind son of a motherless goat! Get out of my way, or I’ll make you!”

Xiang Aoting opened the driver’s door and got out. He strode to the van.

Pockmarked Yuan observed Xiang Aoting’s dark silhouette against the glare of the car’s lights, and the ferocity on his face faded. He realized there was something not right about the other man and retracted his head, wanting to drive away. Then something hit him from behind, and a hand swiftly pulled the key out of the ignition.

Incredulous, Pockmarked Yuan turned to look at the owner of this hand. “You—”

“What ‘you,’ you damn pervert? You’re going to rot in prison!” Every word that came from Shi Jin’s mouth was perfectly enunciated in Mandarin, and he no longer looked timid. He put his hand on the trafficker’s shoulder and pressed down, trapping him against the driver’s seat, then bent intending to tie his hands.

Pockmarked Yuan was so shocked he forgot to struggle. He sputtered, “You, how, are you undercover?! You tricked me, you yokel! Just wait, I will rape you, kill you, and hack up the body—”


Xiang Aoting heard Pockmarked Yuan’s threat the moment he approached, and his face turned ugly. He opened the van’s door and hit the trafficker’s chest with a precise elbow strike, then dragged him out of the seat like a dead dog, snarling, “Shut the hell up! Say one more word, and you’ll never be able to speak again.”

Outraged and hurt, Pockmarked Yuan still refused to yield. He writhed and cussed at them, shouting abuse. His words were extraordinarily foul.

He got on Shi Jin’s nerves so much he couldn’t help but get out of the car and kick him. He noticed his brother was alone and asked, “Where are the others?”

“They are dealing with the cars pursuing you and the people in the house,” explained Xiang Aoting while he handcuffed Pockmarked Yuan. He found a rag in the car and stuffed it in the man’s mouth. He turned to Shi Jin. “Are you hurt? I heard gunshots and an explosion over the phone.”

Shi Jin shook his head. “I’m fine.” He raised a hand to stop Xiang Aoting when he noticed his brother was preparing to move Pockmarked Yuan to his SUV. He squatted and patted the trafficker’s body.

Xiang Aoting’s eyebrows jumped. “What are you doing?”

“He touched me all over, so I have to reciprocate, don’t I?” Shi Jin’s answer was glib, but his movements were purposeful. He kept an eye on Pockmarked Yuan’s expression. Sure enough, it’s here. He borrowed Xiang Aoting’s knife and cut through the trafficker’s clothes layer by layer, finally removing a close-fitting pouch tied to his waist.

Pockmarked Yuan was so angry his eyes bulged like they were about to pop out, and he shook his head, trying to say something. All that could be heard was “Mmph, mmph, mmmph!”

“What is this?” Xiang Aoting frowned.

“His pocket dimension.” Shi Jin pulled the bag open, showing his brother what was inside.

Drugs, grenades, ammunition, a gun, a few bizarre small bottles, cash, a flash drive… It was filled with a bunch of miscellaneous items. The box Shi Jin gave Pockmarked Yuan was also there though he had no idea when the man tucked it away.

His deepest secret discovered, Pockmarked Yuan struggled like mad. His eyes stared at Shi Jin filled with overwhelming hatred. If looks could kill…

Xiang Aoting seemed to think the trafficker offended the eye so, after patting him down, he turned him over and put a bag over his head. Out of sight, out of mind.

Shi Jin pulled the bag off, reproving his brother, “People like him are cunning and slippery. Even though we caught him, we should be on our guard—who knows what other tricks he’s hiding?”

After Shi Jin instructed him earnestly, Xiang Aoting couldn’t resist touching his head. He praised, “This mission was hard on you, but you did great.”

Xiao Si called out happily, <800! JinJin, your progress bar has dropped to 800!>

Shi Jin first became surprised, then overjoyed. He beamed at Xiang Aoting. “What hardship? To serve the people is our duty,” he said virtuously.

Xiang Aoting: “…”

The primary mission could be considered completed. Xiang Aoting and his people handled the rest, like mopping up the remaining gangsters. Shi Jin, as an outsider who had finished his task, was awarded permission to rest early.

He found an excuse to stay in the car alone, then took out the memory cards and flash drive stolen from Brother Wolf and nudged Xiao Si. “I have to hand these over, but can you copy their contents while I still have them?”

Xiao Si knew the information they contained was of great importance. After a moment of deliberation, it answered, <It’s possible, but it will take time because we don’t have a proper device to read them.>

“How long will it take?”

<About two hours?> Xiao Si gave a conservative estimate.

Shi Jin mulled it over. “We should have enough time, it will take Xiang Aoting’s team a while to finish dealing with everything. I will borrow the flash drive Pockmarked Yuan had, copy it too.”

Xiao Si confirmed and started its work with no superfluous words.

Shi Jin felt his hand holding the memory cards, and the flash drive become hot, then an electric current flowed up his arm towards his head. This feeling wasn’t uncomfortable, but it was so weird he tensed. It took him a while to get used to the sensation and relax.

Pockmarked Yuan’s pouch was in Xiang Aoting’s SUV. Shi Jin, relying on his identity, explained that “he didn’t feel safe unless he stayed in his older brother’s car” and walked over, not hiding at all. After he got in, he grabbed the pouch and found the pen drive inside.

Afraid to arouse suspicion, he did not steal the flash drive. Instead, he hugged the bag in his arms and made an inconspicuous cut in it. He touched the drive through the small hole then fell back in the seat, closed his eyes and pretended to be asleep.

…Then he really fell asleep. The current Xiao Si released when it duplicated the data felt comfortable, like an electrical “massage therapy.” Shi Jin, who had been too nervous and tense the past few days to rest well, was caught unaware and fell asleep like putting out a light.

Xiao Si couldn’t bear to wake him up. It took control of his body, adjusting Shi Jin’s grip on the bag, and sped up copying the data.

When Xiang Aoting returned, he found Shi Jin huddled in his car, sound asleep.

Probably because of the lack of rest, Shi Jin had dark circles under his eyes. In the dim light of the night, he looked thin and frail. His skin and old cotton clothes got filthy when they were escaping, smudged with dirt and bits of exploded pickle. There were deep scratches on his exposed fingers, made by broken glass when the pickle jar burst.

Xiang Aoting opened the door and stared at Shi Jin for a while. A breeze blew in, and his younger brother shivered, shrinking away from the night chill. He returned to himself and got into the car, closing the door quietly, then took off his jacket and covered Shi Jin with it.

Xiang Aoting was tall and muscular. The teenager looked even smaller under his clothes.

The late hours of the night always made people prone to feeling sentimental. Shi Jin’s present appearance sent Xiang Aoting’s emotions into turmoil. He took out his phone and sent a message to Shi Weichong: [Big Brother, we might have made a mistake.]

Shi Weichong did not reply; perhaps he was already asleep.

Due to years of self-discipline, Xiang Aoting quickly recovered from this inexplicable mood swing. He looked at the message he sent and hesitated for a moment, but did not delete it. Instead, he took a picture of Shi Jin and sent it too. He set down the phone and leaned over to help Shi Jin put on his seat belt, then he contacted his team members and announced the mission’s successful completion. They were ready to return.

Xiao Si’s shriek woke Shi Jin. Drowsy, he opened his eyes and found that the sky was bright and he was in an unfamiliar hotel room, wearing a set of too-big pajamas that were not his own. There was nobody else here.

“What’s wrong?” Shi Jin yawned. He slept so well he half-seriously considered letting Xiao Si give him “electrotherapy massage” again another time.

Xiao Si’s voice was panicked: <JinJin, Darling’s bar suddenly began to rise. It’s already 600!>

Shi Jin said “Oh.” He arranged the blanket to his satisfaction and closed his eyes. Two seconds later, he sat straight up and shouted in shock, “What?! Whose progress bar? Say it again!”

Xiao Si was about to cry. <Darling, it’s Darling’s! It went up again, now it’s 610!>

Shi Jin was stunned for a moment. He stumbled out of bed and searched for his mobile and luggage, but found nothing. Xiao Si reminded him Xiang Aoting brought him here. Everything should be in Xiang Aoting’s room, next door.

He rushed over and knocked.

Xiang Aoting opened the door a moment later, holding a towel and rubbing his dripping hair. He was wearing a bathrobe, and there were water droplets on his exposed skin. It seemed he had just gotten out of the shower. At Shi Jin’s flustered appearance, he frowned and asked, “What happened?”

Shi Jin perfunctorily said, “I had a nightmare,” then squeezed past him and looked for his luggage. Once he found it, he rummaged for his phone, switched it on, and called Lian Jun as soon as it booted up.

The call connected quickly, and Lian Jun asked, {Shi Jin?}

From the tone of his voice, there was nothing wrong. Shi Jin breathed a sigh of relief and plopped down on the floor. “It’s me. How are things on your side, Jun-shao?”

Lian Jun did not answer but asked instead, {Shi Jin, you aren’t coming back?}

Shi Jin was baffled. “Uh, say what?”

Lian Jun paused, then elaborated, {The government informed us your assignment was completed early this morning, and all the military personnel have returned to B City. Shi Jin, why didn’t you go back to the club? Perhaps… you won’t come back anymore?}

“How could that be!” Shi Jin refuted loudly. Realizing he seemed a little too excited, he lowered his voice and explained, “I fell asleep right after completing my task, I just woke up. Right now I’m at the hotel, I’ll go back soon. Are you still in the club, Jun-shao?” Please, please tell me you are!

Lian Jun’s voice returned to normal. {No.}

“Oh, you aren’t… Wait, you aren’t? Where are you? What are you planning to do? You, you…” Your progress bar is going up like mad, you know?!

Shi Jin’s heart that had returned to its proper place when he heard Lian Jun’s voice, now rose to his throat again. Feeling uneasy, he kept an eye on the rising progress bar and asked, not waiting for the other side’s response, “Are you in the car? Where are you going?”

Lian Jun had just got into the car. He was a little surprised by the accuracy of Shi Jin’s guess and his answer was delayed. After finding a comfortable position to sit, he replied, “I’m going to have lunch with my old friend. Call Gua One and ask him to pick you up at the hotel. And… you did well during the mission. I’m hanging up, I’ll see you at dinner.” With that, he ended the call.

Shi Jin choked, his heart turning cold. He listened to the busy signal coming from the phone, looked at Lian Jun’s progress bar, which had risen to 750, and without hesitation called the man again.

Like the first time, Lian Jun picked up quickly. {What’s wrong?}

“Is it possible for you not to meet with your friend?” Shi Jin got straight to the point.

Lian Jun took a moment to answer, and his voice eased up even more. {Don’t worry, I will pay attention to what I eat. Go back to the club first, I will return before dinner.}

The progress bar is going up so fast that forget dinner, it will be a miracle if you live through lunch!

Shi Jin was anxious, but he couldn’t directly say there was danger ahead. The more anxious he was, the less he knew how to persuade Lian Jun; he felt like tearing his hair from agitation. When Lian Jun indicated he would hang up, his mind blanked for a second, and he shouted, “I won’t allow you to eat with others. You can only eat with me!”

In the blink of an eye, the air turned stagnant, and there was silence on the other side of the phone.

Xiang Aoting, who was standing behind Shi Jin, clenched his hand holding the towel so tight that his muscles bulged and his veins popped. His face turned stony, and his mind went into turmoil.

{Shi Jin.} Lian Jun was the one who broke the silence, but even now he wasn’t angry. Although his tone seemed harsh, the words were soothing. {Don’t be willful. I will go back immediately after the meal. This old friend once saved me, I have to show him courtesy now and then.}

Damn, so it was this kind of relationship. With Lian Jun’s nature, he would never be unappreciative of someone who saved his life, so it seemed this meeting was impossible to stop.

Shi Jin pressed his forehead to force himself to calm down. He stopped himself from looking at the constantly rising progress bar, persuading himself that the situation wasn’t all that dangerous until the progress bar rose to the highest point. When his heartbeat slowed down, he announced, “Then I’m going to see you right now. I want to eat with you, I don’t trust you to behave when you’re alone.”

Lian Jun said, {Shi Jin.}

“I want to eat with you,” Shi Jin insisted. From the outside perspective, his behavior was self-willed and a little spoiled; he even justified himself: “You said I’m supposed to accompany you and eat with you. Now that I’m back in B City, you have no reason to leave me behind.”

After a moment of silence, Lian Jun surrendered. He gave him the address and said, {Come to this place, I will make Gua Two pick you up.}

“No! Gua Two should stay with you, I’ll find it by myself,” Shi Jin stopped him hastily and sighed in relief. He hung up and stood, pulling out a down jacket from his luggage and putting it on. Not bothering to change out of his pajamas, he turned to leave, ready to find Lian Jun.

Xiang Aoting reached out and grabbed his shoulders. His expression was tense as if he wanted to speak but was stopping himself. In the end, he said nothing.

His behavior puzzled Shi Jin and made him a little worried. He raised his arm to break out of his hold and said, “Please take my luggage to the club, Fourth Brother. I will leave first, I have to catch up to Jun-shao.”

“I know, I heard your conversation.” Xiang Aoting’s tone was hard. He kept pressing Shi Jin’s shoulders and wanted to ask something, but Shi Jin’s expression became more and more impatient, and the struggle to shrug off his hands off grew. Xiang Aoting swallowed his words and let him go. He bent down and put a pair of shoes on the ground in front of him, saying, “What’s the rush? Go wash and change your clothes first, I’ll check out in the meantime and drive you. It will be faster than you going by yourself.”

Shi Jin stopped struggling. He weighted cons and pros, then grabbed the clothes and rushed to the bathroom, shouting, “Wait a moment, Fourth Brother, I’ll be right back! Five minutes, no, two minutes is enough! Jun-shao is waiting for me, I have to hurry.”

Xiang Aoting watched him almost slam into the door in his haste and squashed the urge to pull him back and lecture him. Telling himself to be patient, he turned around and fetched his mobile phone to call Shi Weichong.

A quarter of an hour later, the brothers got into the car and left the hotel. Shi Jin called Lian Jun the moment the car door slammed shut. Watching the progress bar, he kept talking about one thing and another, trying to pry the information about this “old friend” out of Lian Jun.

Lian Jun’s thoughts were inscrutable, but unexpectedly, he chatted with Shi Jin. What’s more, his attitude was tolerant and almost pampering.

As Xiang Aoting listened, his grip tightened on the steering wheel until his knuckles turned white. When he could endure no longer, he dialed Rong Zhouzhong’s number. As soon as the call connected, he asked, “Are you in B City?”

{Yeah, I have a break right now. Why?} Rong Zhouzhong’s voice was a little unintelligible; he seemed to be eating.

Xiang Aoting glanced at Shi Jin in the passenger’s seat, who kept chattering on the phone with complete disregard of his surroundings and ground his teeth. He reported the address of the restaurant where Lian Jun and his friend were meeting, then said, “Go there immediately, Big Brother will come too.”

{What’s going on? Are we having dinner together?} Rong Zhouzhong asked in surprise.

“No.” Xiang Aoting’s lips tightened, and his voice was hard as steel. “We are going to have a talk with Little Sixth’s boss.”

Translator’s Notes:

“To serve the people is our duty” – huh, Shi Jin loves his slogans. “Serve the People” or “Service for the People” [为人民服务] is a political slogan which first appeared in Mao Zedong-era China. It originates from the title of a speech by Mao Zedong. (Copied from Wikipedia)

“Chattering on the phone” [煲电话粥] – lit. to boil telephone congee. It compares the length of the telephone call to the time needed to cook a pot of congee (which is apparently very long). This expression is commonly used to describe the long-lasting calls the separated lovers tend to make.

Shi Jin… as smart as you are, you should’ve known your words and actions were going to cause a HUGE misunderstanding.

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