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Annihilation and Tarantula had made too much of a commotion; as soon as Shi Jin had been “saved”, Lian Jun began to arrange their withdrawal.

Xiang Aoting was a battle-hardened soldier and was likely to notice that things weren’t exactly as they seemed.
Taking this into consideration, Lian Jun sent Gua Three to intercept him and the other three and lead them the long way around, turning them away from the depths of the “battlefield”.

In the storeroom, Shi Weichong quickly recomposed himself with a reminder from Gua One and helped the team’s medics transfer Xu Jie to a stretcher.

Shi Jin watched on from the sidelines, neither calling out to his brother nor approaching him.
He knew that Shi Weichong’s emotions must be in a mess, and that he wouldn’t necessarily want to see him right then.

He’d been standing for some time when all at once, the discomfort Shi Jin was feeling grew stronger and stronger.
Noticing that he didn’t look good, Lian Jun shooed him to another stretcher and urged him rest.
Shi Jin gave in and really lay down and closed his eyes.

Annihilation’s entire team rushed to withdraw from the warehouse.
Halfway out, they met up with Xiang Aoting and others led by Gua Three; after a brief conversation, they all hurried outside.

Shi Jin didn’t remember very much of what happened after that—he fell into a semi-conscious state soon after they pulled out from warehouse no.
The aftereffects of the buff were more serious than he’d expected; once he let the tension drain from his body, he was hit with a high fever and his throat began to hurt ferociously, torturing him to the point that he almost wanted to die.

By the time he reawoke, it was already the morning of the next day.

The sun hadn’t fully risen yet.
Forcing open his heavy eyes, Shi Jin looked around his dim surroundings and found himself lying in a hospital ward.
Discovering that Lian Jun was sleeping next to him on a pull-out bed, he hurried to clamp a hand over his mouth and push down the stifling cough that was about to burst out from it.
“What’s the situation now?” he asked Xiao Si in his mind, touching his sore throat.

< Oh! You finally woke up, JinJin.
I didn’t expect the buff’s aftereffects to be so severe, I’m sorry, waaaaaaah… > Xiao Si realized that he had regained consciousness, and it exclaimed in excitement before bursting into tears.

Shi Jin only felt his head hurt even more.
He pulled the blanket up to muffle a few coughs that escaped from his throat.

Seeing this, Xiao Si forced itself to stop crying.
< Yesterday, you passed out shortly after lying down on the stretcher.
Darling was worried, so he sent you to the hospital, > it explained, making its voice light.
< Xu Jie and Shi Weichong are here too.
Xu Jie is still in a coma after a surgery to remove a bullet and sew up her face.
Shi Weichong’s wound wasn’t deep; he came to see you after it was taken care of and sat by your bed for a long time.
Your other brothers went to a nearby hotel to rest and should come by later.
Darling has been watching over you for most of the night; he only lay down to rest a few hours ago, after your fever broke.

Once he’d heard about the situation, Shi Jin felt a little more at ease.
He glanced at Lian Jun, who hadn’t woken from his movements, and his lips curved up into a smile.
Then a thought flashed through his mind and he hurriedly looked away to check his progress bar—it was, after all, the only reason he went through so much trouble.
It had to have dropped a lot, or even better, maybe it was completely eliminated…

Xiao Si noticed what he was doing.
< JinJin, Xu Jie really is your main lethal factor,> it said, voice turning stiff.
< After she lost consciousness, your progress bar dropped straight to 100, but when she came out of surgery, it rose back up to 300… >

Shi Jin: “……”

The system continued hesitantly, < Your progress bar didn’t empty, and it even rose after Xu Jie’s condition improved.
Does… does this mean… >

“It means that Xu Jie still hasn’t given up and won’t let me go as long as she’s alive.” Shi Jin collapsed on the bed and looked at the ceiling, a wave of hopelessness washing over him.
“Is it possible that I have to kill Xu Jie in order for the bar to disappear?”

If Xu Jie was killed, then what should he do about Shi Weichong? And that aside, Shi Jin didn’t want his hands to be stained with blood just because he wanted to eliminate the progress bar.
He wouldn’t allow himself to go down that path, both as a human being and as a matter of principle.

< Most likely, > Xiao Si replied, careful.
Seeing that its host was in low spirits, it hurried to offer some comfort.
< Maybe it’s not because of Xu Jie.
Your progress bar is occasionally affected by Darling, maybe this time is the same— >

“But Lian Jun’s progress bar didn’t rise.
If I was being influenced by him, then his bar would’ve gone up as well,” Shi Jin sighed.
He glanced at the other progress bar in his mind, but found that its value seemed a little off, and blinked.
Suspecting that his brain was still muddled because he’d only just woken up, he frowned, rubbed his eyes, and took another look, but the number didn’t change.
“It went down! Lian Jun’s progress bar went down!” he cried out, sitting up.

< What? > Shocked, Xiao Si checked the bar too, then screamed, < Ah ah aaah! It really went down! It dropped a little bit, to 499! It’s the first time it’s ever dropped below 500! Is this because he’s been taking care of his health lately? >

“Absolutely!” Shi Jin sat up, immediately perking up—as if he could spare attention for his own progress bar now! He turned to stare at Lian Jun, an expression of shock and delight on his face.

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Lian Jun opened his eyes and watched him quietly.

“Uh…” Shi Jin froze, frantically trying to recall if he’d accidentally spoken out loud when he was talking to Xiao Si just now.

After thinking for a moment, he was certain that he hadn’t because his throat was so sore it would’ve been impossible for him to speak normally with his actual mouth… So, Lian Jun was probably woken up by him sitting up all of a sudden.

“Good, good morning,” he greeted with a stiff smile, trying to bluff it out.
Sadly, he discovered that his voice sounded as harsh and unpleasant as fingernails scratching on a blackboard, and grabbed at his throat in horror.

Lian Jun blinked, the confusion of sleep soon fading from his eyes.
He lifted the quilt and got up to touch Shi Jin’s forehead; relieved to find it was no longer hot, he sat down beside the younger man and pulled him into his arms, stroking his back soothingly.
“Did you have a nightmare?” he asked.
“I’m here, don’t be scared.”

What a sweet and thoughtful Darling.

Shi Jin calmed down in an instant and relaxed against him, hugging him and closing his eyes with contentment.

It was nice to have this person by his side.

“Still sleepy?” Lian Jun asked softly, kissing the top of his head.
“Drink some water before you go back to bed.”

Yes, dear, whatever you say.

Shi Jin nodded but didn’t loosen his hug.

Seeing this, Lian Jun simply leaned over with him in his arms, picked up the thermos bottle on the bedside table, unscrewed it a little, and brought it to the teenager’s mouth.

Satisfied, Shi Jin quit while he was ahead and released him to take the bottle.
Taking a sip, his sore and scratchy throat immediately felt much better.
He gave Lian Jun a smile and wanted to speak, but just as he was about to open his lips, Lian Jun pinched them closed.

“The doctor said that the damage to your throat is a little serious and you need to take good care of it.
You should talk as little as possible for the next few days,” he advised him.
He helped Shi Jin lie back down, then leaned down to kiss his forehead.
“Sleep, it’s still early.”

Shi Jin was actually a little worried that Lian Jun would ask him how his throat was damaged, and he had even decided to come clean about Xiao Si.
Unexpectedly, Lian Jun had skipped straight over that issue, so Shi Jin let it go for now as well.
Nodding compliantly, he motioned for Lian Jun to sleep too.
Lian Jun’s progress bar had only just dropped down by 1 point—it wouldn’t do for it to go back up because of lack of sleep.

Lian Jun understood what he meant, kissed him again, and said, “Yes, I’m going back to sleep.
Wake me up if you need anything.”

Shi Jin nodded and closed his eyes, listening to the movements of Lian Jun lying down on the pull-out bed.
As he watched that tiny difference in his lover’s progress bar in his mind, he drifted off to sleep without even realizing.

When he woke up again, it was already 10:00 a.m.
Lian Jun was awake and sitting by the hospital bed reading documents.

Shi Jin was a little embarrassed—he hadn’t thought he’d sleep for so long after going back to sleep.
He got up to wash and brush his teeth, then let the doctor do a check-up and obediently took his medicine.
Once he’d made sure that his throat was better, he asked, “Did you do your exercises this morning?”

Lian Jun didn’t expect that the first thing Shi Jin would do after he could speak would be to worry about him.
Instantly in a good mood, he poured Shi Jin a cup of honey water.
“I did, in another ward.
Do you want to check?” he replied, gesturing towards his collar.

Without hesitation, Shi Jin reached over and pulled at his collar to take a look, then squeezed his arm and nodded sagely.
“Well, you’re telling the truth—your muscles show that you have indeed exercised.
Here, a reward,” he said, leaning in to give him a kiss.

Lian Jun smiled and pinched his face, then motioned outside the ward.
“Shi Weichong is outside, waiting to see you.
Xu Jie woke up this morning, but she doesn’t seem to be in a great place, psychologically.
She may need to see a psychologist.”

She doesn’t seem to be in a great place psychologically?

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Shi Jin glanced at the progress bar, steady at 300, and frowned.
“Let Shi Weichong come in first.”

Lian Jun nodded.
He helped him fix the quilt then turned around, intending to go to the door.

But Shi Jin stopped him.
“Lian Jun, would you blame me if I said I’m not going to send Xu Jie to prison, like we’d planned?” he asked.

Lian Jun looked back at him and replied earnestly, “I won’t blame you, but I don’t recommend you do that.
A hidden danger is always a hidden danger—to avoid future troubles, it’s best to either get rid of it or get it under your control.
Continuing to leave it alone is a bad choice.”

“I know.” Shi Jin sighed, tugging his hair helplessly.
“But I can’t get rid of her, and if I send her to jail, Shi Weichong wouldn’t be able to stomach it and would definitely come to beg me.
Right now, I can’t continue to sprinkle salt on Shi Weichong’s wounds… Actually, I’ve come up with a compromise that would both keep Xu Jie under control and give Shi Weichong some time to adapt.”

Lian Jun’s eyes flashed.
“What compromise?”

Shi Jin didn’t answer, asking instead, “Does Annihilation have its own psychiatric hospital abroad? One that’s isolated from the outside world?”

Lian Jun immediately understood what he meant.
His fingers drummed on the armrest of his wheelchair, then he smiled.
“Something like that? Annihilation has plenty.”

Lian Jun let Shi Weichong enter, then left, allowing the two brothers some privacy.

Shi Weichong was also wearing hospital pajamas, and looked haggard, with heavy black circles under his bloodshot eyes.
He sat down next to Shi Jin’s bed and checked on his condition, then asked, “How are you feeling?”

“I’m fine.
The fever is gone, now it’s just a sore throat,” Shi Jin replied, pouring him a glass of water.
“And how are you? Is your wound serious?”

Shi Weichong shook his head and accepted the water.
He kept silent for a moment, weighing his words, then said, “Xiao Jin, I’m sorry, I…”

“I don’t have to send Xu Jie to prison—the kidnapping didn’t alert the authorities, and we settled it by ourselves, so we don’t have to go through legal procedures,” Shi Jin interrupted him, going straight to the point.
As Shi Weichong’s eyes snapped up to look at him, he said seriously, “But I can’t forgive Xu Jie for what she did to my mother.
Although she didn’t do the deed herself, she did induce my mother to committing suicide.”

Shi Weichong’s hand tightened on the glass, and his eyes dimmed once more.
“What do you want to do?” he asked.

“I’ve heard that Xu Jie’s not in a good place mentally and that she needs to see a psychologist.” Shi Jin didn’t like the way the atmosphere of their talk had shifted; he pulled up his blanket, then looked down at the hollow of his palms and continued, “Perhaps it’s because my mind is too devious itself, but I can’t help thinking she’s only pretending.
Apparently one of Fifth Brother’s fellow apprentices is a very famous psychiatrist—I’d like him to examine Xu Jie.
My request is that regardless of the result of the examination, you still have to send Xu Jie to one of Annihilation’s psychiatric hospitals and never let her out again.”

Taken aback, Shi Weichong couldn’t stop himself from calling out, “Xiao Jin…”

“She has done something wrong and she needs to be punished,” Shi Jin interrupted him again and looked up at him with firm eyes.
“I don’t need to kill her and I can even keep her out of prison, but I can’t forgive her and let her spend the rest of her life in comfort, with the chance that she’ll find another opportunity to hurt me! Big Brother, you might say I’m cruel or unfeeling, but on this one issue, I’ll never give in.
I have to be the one to decide the hospital.
You can arrange whoever you want to take care of her, you can even inspect the environment in person and make sure that I won’t be able to send someone to abuse her in secret, but she can never be free.
I only have one life, I don’t want to have to keep looking over my shoulder, afraid—”

“Sorry.” Shi Weichong suddenly put down his glass and hugged him, his voice heavy.
“I’m sorry, Xiao Jin, I never meant to push you this far… I’m sorry.”

Shi Jin froze.
He turned his head a little to glance at him, calling out, “…Big Brother?”

“You don’t have to make so many concessions for me,” Shi Weichong said, shutting his eyes tight.
“And there’s no need for an examination—there is nothing wrong with my mother’s mental state, she’s just faking it to evade legal responsibility.
That’s the exact reason I came here, to tell you about that.
You can deal with her however you want, I won’t have any objections.”

“…Huh? You’re not here…” To plead for her?

Shi Jin was bewildered; he didn’t understand this development.

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“I’m not that confused.” Hearing the surprise in his voice, Shi Weichong released him and pulled back.
At Shi Jin’s astonished expression, he raised a hand to touch the teenager’s hair, revealing a bitter smile.
“It’s too unfair to you.
You’ve given her a chance, but she didn’t appreciate it.”

“Big Brother.” Seeing Shi Weichong look as if he’d thought everything through, Shi Jin actually felt uneasy rather than relieved.

“I’m fine.” Shi Weichong shook his head.
“I thought a lot yesterday, about what my mother said, about our time together in the past, about what I’ve done in the past few decades… I thought all night long, trying to find even one thing that made me feel happy, but there was nothing.
After all these years, I actually have nothing except for money.
Maybe I realized it subconsciously long ago, and that’s why I’ve always wanted to tie you to me… How did you say it before, overcompensation? Yes, it’s probably something like that—the more I lacked something, the more I chased it.
All the while ignoring that on the contrary, it was putting a lot of unnecessary burdens on your shoulders.
It’s also what indirectly led to where we are today.”

“Big Brother, this isn’t your fault,” Shi Jin refuted, disapproving of Shi Weichong taking all the blame on himself.

“You don’t have to comfort me, I understand.” The other man shook his head again.
“I’m not saying this because of self-pity or because I’m giving up on myself—it’s just that I’ve never been more clear-headed than I am right now.
No one knows my mother better than me: she’s prejudiced, patient, and never gives up until she’s reached her goal.
From beginning to end, she was the one who was in the wrong.
She’s pushed you to this point, but I refuse to help her abuse you any further.
She’s already past the point of waking up; forgiving her over and over again would only allow her to fall further and further.
I’m already grateful that you don’t want her to pay for her mistakes with her life—how you want to punish her is up completely to you.”

Shi Jin frowned and asked, “Even if I shut her up in a psychiatric hospital? For the rest of her life?”

“It’s up to you.” Shi Weichong touched his hair again to comfort him, and promised, “Xiao Jin, you don’t have to be afraid anymore—I will never let her hurt you again, never.”

Once he’d said that, Shi Weichong took his leave.
Shi Jin followed him with his gaze, unable to dismiss the feeling that his brother looked a bit wrong when he said that last sentence.
Shi Jin gave it some thought, then took out his phone and called Li Jiuzheng.

Although Shi Weichong told Shi Jin he was sure that Xu Jie was only pretending to have mental problems, Shi Jin still asked Li Jiuzheng to invite his elder apprentice brother to come over and take a look at her.

After a visit, Li Jiuzheng’s senior brother gave the same answer as Shi Weichong—Xu Jie was not mentally ill.
She was now in a state of excessive calm following an emotional outburst, and all her nervous breakdowns were faked.

Shi Weichong’s reaction to the news was rather dull.
He listened to the results of the examination, and even had a polite talk with Li Jiuzheng’s senior brother afterwards, inquiring about how Li Jiuzheng was doing, and about his master. 

The man chatted with him cooperatively.
Later, once he’d left the hospital, he called Shi Jin.

{Your eldest brother’s mental health isn’t good, it’s true—he’s repressing his emotions too much.} The very first sentence out of Li Jiuzheng’s senior brother’s mouth cooled Shi Jin’s heart.

Shi Jin frowned. Sure enough.

Although Shi Weichong showed a calm and mature attitude Shi Jin couldn’t help but feel that his brother had dealt with his emotions a little too fast.
The way he was acting, that calm appearance looked, more than anything,  like a self-flagellating stress response to being pushed to his limit.
As soon as Shi Jin realized that, he got in touch with Li Jiuzheng to ask for his senior brother’s number, and asked the man to conduct a discreet examination on Shi Weichong in addition to Xu Jie.

“Is it a serious issue?” Shi Jin asked.

{It’s not minor,} the man replied.
{With all due respect, Mr.
Shi, do you have a bad relationship with your eldest brother? Has there ever been a situation where he did something wrong and wanted to make it up to you, but you haven’t accepted the attempt?}

Shi Jin didn’t understand why he asked this.
“Yes, my relationship with him really isn’t great, and something like that has happened.
But the reason I didn’t accept his compensation was just because I didn’t need what he wanted to give me, not because I was blaming him.”

{It seems this is the crux of the problem after all,} Li Jiuzheng’s senior brother sighed.
{When I talked with him, I found that he was very concerned about your situation, and had an urgent desire to make things up to you and your other brothers, but none of them seemed to accept his compensation.
Suppress any emotion for too long without being able to vent and things will build up and cause serious psychological problems eventually… In a nutshell, he’s been overwhelmed by guilt, and something that happened recently has made him feel like he doesn’t even have the right to make amends, so he’s suffering right now.
He’s showing a tendency to destroy himself along with the source of his mistakes; you’d better find a way to help him see straight.}

Shi Jin hadn’t expected this kind of result.
He recalled Shi Weichong’s final sentence from their last conversation and his face twisted into a fierce frown.

If you’re seeing this notice, you’re reading this chapter on pirate site – the original translator of Death Progress Bar is Betwixted Translations.

That evening, after some pondering, Shi Jin called Shi Weichong over.
“Big Brother, you’re right—forgiving people again and again will only make them fall deeper.
That’s not true for Xu Jie alone, but also for you.
Please accompany your mother in the psychiatric hospital for half a year.
After half a year, I will allow you to leave.”

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Shi Weichong froze.
“Is this the punishment you’re giving me?”

No, I’m doing this so that you will relax.
And why did you ask that so expectantly?

Shi Jin didn’t reply but watched him without any expression, as if the answer was obvious.

Shi Weichong glanced at him and, unexpectedly, smiled.
All of a sudden he looked as if a huge weight had been lifted off his back, and leaned over to hug him.
“I understand… Take care of yourself, Xiao Jin.
I’ll miss you.”

“I won’t miss you,” Shi Jin replied callously, not returning the hug, and even pushing him away in rejection.
“Get out, I want to rest.”

Pushed away, Shi Weichong stiffened, but quickly covered it up with a smile and helped Shi Jin arrange the blanket, then turned to leave.

The ward became quiet.
Shi Jin maintained his blank expression for a while longer, then fell back on the bed and let out a long sigh.
Always forgiving someone would only make them fall further… What a hassle.

After Shi Jin made his final decision, Lian Jun arranged the hospital as quickly as possible, then went through the procedures for Xu Jie and Shi Weichong respectively, and packed them into the plane.

Shi Jin didn’t go to the airport to send them off.
Instead, he stayed in the ward, leaning on the windowsill and staring at his progress bar in a daze.

The minutes ticked by.
When the plane’s scheduled departure time arrived, Shi Jin found his progress bar had dropped to 200.

< When Xu Jie arrives at the hospital and is put under close supervision, your progress bar should fall even more, > Xiao Si said, breathing a sigh of relief.

“Yeah,” Shi Jin replied, looking away and slumping on the sofa by the window, feeling a little aggrieved—in order to let Shi Weichong have a good rest, he had no choice but to reluctantly pick a slightly less bad hospital for Xu Jie.

“Why don’t bad guys get a bad ending? Letting her live so comfortably pisses me off…” he grumbled, unsatisfied.

“She won’t live comfortably,” Lian Jun’s voice suddenly sounded behind him.

Surprised, Shi Jin turned his head to look at him.

Lian Jun rolled his wheelchair over to the sofa and stretched out his hand to cover the teenager’s wide eyes.
“I’ve prepared a gift for her, one that will make her hospital life absolutely wonderful.”

Instantly filled with hope, Shi Jin sat up and asked eagerly, “What gift? Did you arrange a terrible doctor for her?”

“No.” Lian Jun found that he very much liked Shi Jin looking at him with this expression of expectation and trust, and the corners of his mouth pulled up.
“Remember the nurse Xu Jie bought off? After she incited your mother to commit suicide, she lived a terrible life in hiding for many years in order to avoid both Shi Xingrui’s investigators and being silenced by Xu Jie.
In the end, she developed some mental issues.
I found a way to move her to the same hospital as Xu Jie, and set her up in a room next door.”

Recalling that they still had that chess piece in their hands, Shi Jin’s eyes grew brighter and brighter.
He couldn’t resist hugging Lian Jun and and praising him for his cleverness, then sat up straight and exclaimed, “Justice may be late, but never absent!” What goes around comes around—let Xu Jie and the nurse who hated her torture each other! Oh, this was really satisfying!

Lian Jun reached out to turn Shi Jin’s face back to him and said, “Now that all of Xu Jie’s business is dealt with, we should talk about your business.”

“Huh? My business? What do you mean?” Shi Jin asked in confusion, obediently turning back.
“Is this about the beginning of school? It’ll be fine, my body has already recovered.
You don’t have to worry.”

“I’m not talking about that,” Lian Jun replied, making him look down at the document lying on his knees.
“This is what Shi Weichong gave me before he left—it’s the next stage of Ruixing’s development plan.
Ruixing is now in your hands, so what are you going to do with this behemoth, Mr.
new president?”

Shi Jin’s feeling of elation crumbled into dust.
He looked at the file on Lian Jun’s lap with a foolish expression—how did he forget about this? He just forced Shi Weichong to take half a year’s leave, but then what about Ruixing? He couldn’t run a company!

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