Chapter 28: Autograph
Edited by Bet from Betwixted Translations
The hotel was far from the restaurant chosen for the meeting. When Lian Jun said he had arrived and hung up, Shi Jin was still twenty minutes’ drive away.
Shi Jin, who was on pins and needles, kept fidgeting in his seat.
Xiang Aoting, who noticed him looking out of the window with an anxious expression, couldn’t resist asking, “Is eating with Lian Jun so important to you?”
Shi Jin returned to himself and sent his brother a sideways glance, then nodded. “Yes, it’s very important.” It’s a matter of life and death. After this exchange, he continued to watch the road ahead, praying for a green wave and that they don’t get stuck in a traffic jam. He also kept an eye on the progress bar in his mind.
As Lian Jun approached the restaurant, his bar continued to fill. When he hung up, it broke through 900 and stopped at 910. While this value didn’t mean an immediate threat to his life, it still meant danger was not far away.
Xiao Si was nervous enough it almost broke down and Shi Jin wasn’t any calmer either. He wanted to call Gua Two and urge him to pay more attention to Lian Jun’s safety. Afraid the phone would distract him, Shi Jin grit his teeth and endured.
“How did Lian Jun’s friend pop up out of the blue? Do many people know Lian Jun is in B City right now?” Shi Jin couldn’t help but ask Xiao Si.
<No, not many. At first, it was a temporary stop, but Darling changed his mind after the government asked him for help. He decided to stay until the end of the year. Few people should know about it.>
“Then it’s strange. From what Lian Jun said, this was a sudden invitation, not an appointment made a long time ago. Isn’t it too much of a coincidence that this friend sent Lian Jun an invitation just when he is in B City, even though he’s not supposed to be?” Shi Jin frowned and tried to put together the pieces of information he pried out of Lian Jun, wanting to divert his attention and calm himself down.
<Don’t panic, JinJin. What you can think of, Darling can think of too. He’s smart, and difficult to deceive.> Xiao Si tried to reassure him.
“The hell he is. If he was, he wouldn’t only take Gua Two, but also Gua One, Three, Five and Nine!” Shi Jin snarled. The more he thought about it, the more he felt that this time, Lian Jun was really careless. He raised his hand and scratched at the car window, wishing he could teleport to Lian Jun’s side.
Shi Jin’s series of actions didn’t escape Xiang Aoting’s notice, and the man became more and more sure his guess was correct. His face stayed composed, and he sped up again.
Two minutes later, Lian Jun’s progress bar jumped to 940; Shi Jin suspected it was because he had met his friend already. Fortunately, it didn’t rise again, letting Shi Jin relax a little.
The car raced all the way. Ten minutes later, they arrived at a century old restaurant. Shi Jin unfastened his seat belt and jumped out before the car came to the complete stop, then ran inside, ignoring Xiang Aoiting’s shout behind him.
The restaurant was not big. Shi Jin grabbed a passing waiter and determined that Lian Jun was in a private room on the third floor. He rushed to the stairs, taking two steps at the same time to get there faster.
Xiao Si kept comforting him. <Don’t worry, JinJin, Darling’s progress bar didn’t rise, it’s still at 940. Run slower, be careful not to fall.>
“I won’t fall down,” Shi Jin answered as he got to the third floor. After scanning the numbers on the doors near the stairs, he headed towards the left corridor.
He looked around as he walked and stopped before the penultimate door on the left, numbered 308, but did not enter. Instead, he looked at the two seemingly empty rooms on both sides and frowned, recalling the bustling lobby. Then he raised a hand and knocked.
It was Gua Two who opened the door. While unsurprised to see Shi Jin, his expression was a little strange; he looked as if he wanted to speak but stayed his tongue.
“What made you wear this kind of expression? Jun-shao?” His heart missed a beat when he found no one at the table, but Gua Two explained, “Jun-shao is in the inner room with his friend, Mr. Chen, and…”
Shi Jin did not wait for him to finish but strode towards the inner room and, not caring about things like politeness or courtesy, pushed the door open without knocking. Then he froze, because Shi Weichong, who was sitting inside, raised his head to look at him.
Gua Two walked to stand behind him and whispered, “…And your brother Shi Weichong is also there.”
Shi Jin: “…”
So can someone tell me what the hell is this situation? Why is Shi Weichong here?
“Little Sixth.” Xiang Aoting’s voice came from behind—this brother, whom Shi Jin dumped at the restaurant’s entrance, came over too.
Lian Jun turned towards the door when it opened. After scrutinizing Shi Jin and making sure he was fine, he looked at Xiang Aoting and nodded his greeting.
A lean man, who was the only unfamiliar person inside the room, also turned their way. His sight moved between Shi Jin and Xiang Aoting, settling on the older man, whose distinct temperament stood out, and his thin fingers gripped the cup tighter. He frowned but did not speak, and a faint uneasiness appeared in his eyes.
For some inexplicable reason, the air turned stagnant. Shi Jin, Xiang Aoting, and Gua Two stopped at the doorway. Shi Weichong, Lian Jun, and the thin man were sitting inside. Six people stared at each other and for a while, nobody spoke.
Pleasantly surprised, Xiao Si called out, <Darling’s progress bar is down to 900! It fell just after Xiang Aoting came.>
Taken aback, Shi Jin twisted his head to look at Xiang Aoting. His clothes were ordinary and off-the-rack… except for the custom-made, black military jacket with army emblems on the chest and up the sleeves. In a burst of inspiration he swiveled around, grabbed Xiang Aoting’s arm and pulled the jacket’s zipper down, saying in a stage whisper, “Fourth Brother, this is the pilot jacket you wear to fly your fighter? It must be warm, let me borrow it.”
“What are you talking about? This is an ordinary down jacket.” Xiang Aoting frowned, but did not stop Shi Jin from taking off his jacket and even coordinated with him. Though he did not forget to scold, “You’re cold now because you didn’t want to change your clothes. This will teach you not to be so rash.”
Xiao Si informed him happily, <Darling’s progress bar dropped again, to 890! JinJin, you’re awesome!>
Inside, Shi Jin was both elated and relieved.
From what he inferred, the bad guys prepared an ambush in the restaurant so, Lian Jun’s bar remained at 940. In all likelihood the enemies did not expect Shi Weichong to not only come and met Lian Jun but sit in the same room with him, refusing to move an inch. Now that Xiang Aoting, an army officer, also appeared, the planned ambush would be aborted!
For the first time, Shi Jin felt his brothers were adorable. He did not mind being hot, so he wrapped Xiang Aoting’s jacket around himself and bounced to Lian Jun, moving a chair close to him and parking his butt in it. He sent the thin man sitting opposite a white-toothed smile and said amiably, “How do you do? I’m Shi Jin, Jun-shao’s… Uh, you can say I’m dependent on Jun-shao, I guess. You are his friend? We are meeting for the first time, so nice to meet you.”
At this self-introduction, Shi Weichong set his cup on the table with a black face. Xiang Aoting’s expression turned flat, dissatisfied. Lian Jun did not bat an eye though, he only looked sideways at Shi Jin who sat very close to him.
The teenager’s words stunned the lean man. He was keenly aware of the atmosphere becoming strange, but when he looked at Lian Jun, the other party didn’t refute. He squirmed and forced out a stiff smile. “Hello, I’m Chen Qing, Lian Jun’s… old acquaintance.”
Old acquaintance? Lian Jun said Chen Qing was an old friend, but Chen Qing used “old acquaintance,” which seems somewhat distant… The gears in Shi Jin’s mind turned, but on the outside, he appeared affable and sincere. He introduced the other people present: “The person who sits next to you is my eldest brother Shi Weichong, the Ruixing Corporation’s new chairman. You know Ruixing, that super-powerful overseas company? My big brother is awesome, he makes money as easy as pie.”
When Shi Jin said this, Shi Weichong stopped looking menacing. He peered at Shi Jin, and the expression in his eyes moved a little, revealing a little emotion.
Chen Qing, however, seemed to find it difficult to cope with Shi Jin’s “enthusiasm.” His reply was ambiguous, and his expression became even more uneasy.
“And this is my fourth brother, Xiang Aoting. Hehe, he’s awesome too, he’s a soldier, a fighter pilot, hehehe.” Shi Jin grabbed Xiang Aoting again and pulled him forward, presenting him proudly.
Xiang Aoting looked a little better. He sat down beside Shi Jin and even nodded to Chen Qing.
Inexplicably, the atmosphere eased.
Now that the people at the table became acquainted, Gua Two prepared to withdraw and close the door—he wasn’t like Shi Jin, who had his brothers’ support and could sit next to Lian Jun whenever he wanted.
“Wait a moment, don’t close the door,” stopped him Xiang Aoting. “Our third brother is coming too, he’ll be here in a minute.”
Shi Jin was stunned and then laughed, almost giddy. Rong Zhouzhong is coming? That’s great, that’s super-duper fan-tas-tic! With the man’s fame, no matter who is lying in wait here, now they would think twice before making a move.
“Are you happy?” Lian Jun asked abruptly. This was the first time he spoke since Shi Jin entered.
“I am.” Shi Jin nodded, not trying to hide it. He looked at Chen Qing with a delighted expression and shouted, “Mr. Chen, my third brother will meet us. Do you know who he is? It’s Rong Zhouzhong, you know, that super-handsome movie star and singer who wins all the awards, the one with millions of fans, that Rong Zhouzhong! His movies are awesome, have you seen them? You must’ve seen them, right?”
“I, I’ve seen them. Your brothers are… awesome.” There was a faint sheen of sweat on Chen Qing’s forehead. He let out a few awkward laughs then suddenly stood and gave Lian Jun an apologetic smile. “Excuse me, I need to go to the bathroom.”
Lian Jun nodded and let him leave as if he noticed nothing wrong with him at all.
Shi Jin watched him as he left. His eyes were vigilant and did not leave the man until he disappeared.
“Shi Jin,” Lian Jun called out.
Shi Jin returned to himself and turned toward Lian Jun, his expression saying ‘Why are you calling me? I’m completely normal. I’m not scheming anything. I just want to show off my brothers.’
Lian Jun stared at him for a few seconds but declined to comment. He looked away and poured him a cup of tea instead, then asked, “How was the mission? Were you in danger?”
“Yes!” Shi Jin’s reply was loud and clear, and it immediately attracted everyone’s attention.
Shi Weichong scowled. “What mission? Xiao Jin, did you have to do something again?” His line of sight moved to Xiang Aoting, and his eyes were inquiring.
Xiang Aoting nodded and explained, “Xiao Jin and I were on a mission together a few days ago. It was confidential, so I didn’t tell you.”
Shi Weichong’s expression sank. He glared at Lian Jun and asked, “What danger, Xiao Jin?”
“I met a pervert!” Shi Jin’s thoughts were far away; he did not pay attention to the conversation at all. He picked up his cup and inhaled the tea, then rose abruptly. “Keep talking, I will pick up Third Brother. His face is too well-known and B City is full of paparazzi, I will cover him.” Then he left at once, not giving anyone a chance to react.
Shi Weichong, who was waiting for the rest of the story: “…”
Lian Jun motioned Gua Two to follow Shi Jin. When he was sure the teenager wouldn’t overhear him, he put down his cup and asked, “Why did you come here today?”
He wasn’t stupid. Something like meeting an acquaintance by coincidence when going out to eat did not exist in his dictionary.
Shi Weichong turned back and scrutinized him, taking in his appearance. He recalled what Xiang Aoting said over the phone, Shi Jin’s wariness of Chen Qing and the way he clung to Lian Jun, practically showing off their closeness. He suppressed his emotions and carefully choose his words: “I hope you will let Xiao Jin go. He’s still eighteen, he should be at school.”
“Impossible.” Lian Jun flat-out refused, not leaving any possibility for discussion. “It won’t happen unless Shi Jin asks to leave. I won’t force him to do anything he doesn’t want to do.”
“You are leading him astray,” the other man accused him.
Lian Jun couldn’t let this one pass. “Really? I think Shi Jin is getting more and more outstanding since staying with me.”
This was a fact. Shi Weichong could not refute, and his expression turned ugly.
“Are you aware Xiao Jin has feelings for you?” Xiang Aoting asked suddenly, looking at Lian Jun meaningfully.
Shi Weichong didn’t expect Xiang Aoting to directly tell their suspicions to the concerned party. He frowned and hesitated for a moment but did not stop his younger brother, instead giving the reins of the conversation to him.
It was quite obvious Lian Jun was stunned, but he quickly supressed his emotions and countered, “Does it matter whether or not I know? And aren’t these so-called feelings just your misunderstanding? Let’s be objective here; Shi Jin is an adult, an independent individual. You asked me to let him go, but I never forced him to stay with me.”
“He’s only eighteen, his mind is still immature. It’s easy for others to influence him,” emphasized Xiang Aoting.
Lian Jun disagreed with this statement. “Shi Jin is an adult. He knows what he’s doing.”
“Then do you know what you’re doing? Aren’t you using his adolescent feelings to tie him to you?” Shi Weichong asked, unable to restrain himself. His words were ruthless and emotional, even somewhat chaotic. His behavior today differed from the dispassionate decisiveness he displayed on Shi Jin’s birthday.
Lian Jun’s countenance turned icy. “Mr. Shi, I won’t take my words back. Nobody can make Shi Jin leave my side as long as he doesn’t want to.”
Neither side wanted to give in, and the atmosphere became tense. Because nobody spoke, it was so silent one could hear a pin drop.
It lasted a long time, until Xiang Aoting said in an earnest voice, “Lian Jun, Shi Jin still has a chance to lead a normal life. He can study, grow, fall in love and get married in sunlight instead of crawling through the mud in the hail of bullets. I know you want Annihilation to leave the underworld, to let your people live a normal life in the sun, but it always darkest before the dawn. Why do you want to drag a person who should be able to live in the light into your dark and cruel world?
“Shi Jin is only eighteen years old. During this mission, a pervert molested him, shards of glass cut his hands. What about next time? I don’t want my younger brother to die somewhere I don’t know, sometime I don’t know. Lian Jun, Shi Jin cares about you very much. Don’t you care about him, even a little?”
Lian Jun’s fingers on the wheelchair armrest trembled, then slowly tightened, but they could see no reaction on his face. His eyelids drooped, blocking both the feelings visible in his eyes and the pressure assaulting him from the outside.
“Annihilation is my world.” When he spoke, his voice was as cold as the heart of a glacier. “Shi Jin has stepped into it of his own free will, so no one, no one can drag him out except for him. He will live until the light comes, be sure of that.”
Shi Jin watched Chen Qing enter the bathroom, then walked up and down the corridor a few times as if to wait for someone, while Xiao Si scanned the surrounding rooms.
Xiao Si worked silently and concluded that people were hiding in all the seemingly empty rooms near 308. A lot of people at that.
Shi Jin frowned and racked his brain.
There are too many enemies, we can’t deal with them by ourselves, and it’s too late to summon help from Nightlight. If so, the only way is to frighten them so much they wouldn’t dare to attack.
While he was pondering, someone appeared on the landing. Seeing Shi Jin blocking the top of the stairs, that person stopped looking around and came up, then said in a voice muffled by the mask, “Why are standing here like an idiot? And what are you wearing, don’t you know you look stupid?”
Shi Jin halted and looked at the newcomer. Out of the corner of an eye, he noticed Chen Qing returned to the private room. He took a deep breath, then displayed a brilliant, somewhat terrifying smile and rushed down the steps, bellowing, “Third Brother, you came! I heard that the movie you just released broke the box office record, congratulations! I heard someone praise you earlier, they said Rong Zhouzhong’s skills reached a new level while he acted as Emperor Yan— Mmph!”
Rong Zhouzhong’s expression changed, and he took a big stride forward to grab Shi Jin and cover his mouth, then he snapped his head left and right. He thought he heard the start of a commotion in the lobby, so he hurriedly dragged Shi Jin upstairs. He pulled down his mask and snapped, “You you did that on purpose, you little bastard! Why are you shouting? If you attract too much attention, we won’t be able to eat in peace!”
After a short struggle, Shi Jin dragged the hand off his mouth and continued to howl, “Don’t worry, this restaurant doesn’t seem to do well and the rooms on the second and third floors are empty. What’s wrong with my shouting, I’m praising you! Your acting was great, Rong Zhouzhong is the best actor ever, I love you— Mmph.”
“You damn… Just shut up!” Rong Zhouzhong scanned their surroundings vigilantly. When there was no movement, he sighed in relief. Shi Jin’s praise made his mood somewhat complicated; he felt a little elated, a little excited, and his hands were a little itching to hit people. In the end, he stretched his arms around Shi Jin and dragged him into the corridor, still blocking his mouth. He scolded fiercely, “Saying less won’t kill you! Where is Big Brother?”
Shi Jin pointed at Lian Jun’s private room. Suddenly, his free hand twisted and, with an inexplicable move, grabbed Rong Zhouzhong’s scarf and hat, exposing his face. While his brother was stunned, he broke out of his hold and stuffed his spoils into his clothes. He said innocently, “Third Brother, did you know your belongings are extremely valuable? Give me these, I promised two of your stalker fans ‘tokens,’ and they offered to pay me a lot of money.”
Rong Zhozhong flew into a rage when he heard that. He stretched his arms to grab him and threatened, “Don’t you dare! Try to sell them, and I will break your legs!”
“Whatever!” Shi Jin ran towards the room, not forgetting to taunt his brother. “So what if I sell it? You can’t beat me anyway.”
“You… damn… BRAT! I will kill you! Don’t run, give it back!” Rong Zhouzhong gave a frenzied chase, his expression distorted with fury. Right now, the perfect, elegant, cold image he presented to the world was lost to the wind.
Shi Jin ignored him and burst into the room, asking Xiao Si, “How’s the progress bar?”
<It has fallen. Right after Rong Zhouzhong appeared, it went down to 600! Darling should be safe now!> Xiao Si answered, excited
As expected, Rong Zhouzhong’s ‘lethality’ goes through the roof!
Shi Jin made a fist and shouted “Yes,” then passed Gua Two, who stood outside, like a gust of wind, burst through the inner door and flung himself down next to Lian Jun. Then he fished out the scarf and hat and pushed them to Rong Zhouzhong who came in after him, muttering “Stingy.” He grabbed his arm and looked towards Chen Qing, saying imperiously, “Mr. Chen, this is my third brother Rong Zhouzhong. Don’t you think he looks more handsome in reality? And his acting is awesome, he’s not just a pretty face like those slanderers say. Do you want his autograph? An autograph of a future world-famous Grand Slam Emperor. You will surely be happy you got it, I’ll ask my brother to give you one!”
Rong Zhouzhong, who was about to rake his youngest brother over the coals: “…”
Chen Qing recognized Rong Zhouzhong and knew of his influence. He shuffled uncomfortably in his seat and put a strained smile on his face, nodding to Rong Zhouzhong. “He-hello, I’ve been looking forward to meeting you. I liked your performance in ‘The Siege.’”
“Cough, is that so.” In an instant, Rong Zhouzhong pulled back his outstretched claws and adjusted his expression. He threw the hat and scarf to Xiang Aoting, straightened the clothes Shi Jin messed up, and, putting up the elegant facade he always presented, he held out his hand to Chen Qing and said cooly, “Thank you for your support. If you really want my autograph, for my brother’s sake, I can make an exception and sign you more than one.”
Chen Qing: “…” Um, no, I was merely being polite.
Xiao Si screamed, <JinJin, your progress bar dropped to 790!>
Shi Jin was at a loss, and his mood became complex. He looked at Rong Zhouzhong, who seemed to give out a light when he was in a “serious mode,” thought for a moment, and decided to experiment. He gave his brother another exaggerated praise: “Third Brother, sign something for me too. I think your writing is very beautiful.”
After Rong Zhouzhong shook Chen Qing’s hand, he turned to send Shi Jin an ominous glance. With a cold smile, he said, “Why should I, so you can sell it? Don’t even think about it. You want my autograph? You’ll get one when hell freezes over.”
Shi Jin: “…”
“Century old restaurant” [百年老字号饭庄] – a restaurant (in this case, but it can also be any other shop or product) that was established more than a hundred years ago, is traditional, widely recognized, and can even be considered a part of cultural heritage – Daci Pavilion’s sesame oil is a good example. Baike page (in Chinese) here, other examples (in English) here.
“Who wins all the awards” [拿奖拿到手软] – lit. who always wins the awards and his hands are sore from holding them. Much shorter in Chinese.
“Grand Slam Emperor” [大满贯影帝] – means an actor who won the Golden Rooster Award, the Golden Horse Award, and the TVB Anniversary Award for Best Actor/Actress in a Leading Role (these are Chinese film awards).
[Edit: Pardon, I made a mistake in my notes – it was supposed to be “Daci Pavilion’s sesame oil,” not just “Daci Pavilion.” Fixed now.]
Please read the post about DPB updates if you haven’t already~
When Shi Jin thought Rong Zhouzhong seemed to give out a light? “Bishie sparkle” is what went through my mind. 🤣
…and Kashima & Mikoto version (I love Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun ❤️)