The morning training passed smoothly, and the afternoon was a rare free time—that is, rest time.
Shi Jin passed up Luo Donghao’s invitation to go to the canteen together.
He sat on the ground, staring at Xiang Aoting, who was preparing to leave.
As hints go, this one was quite obvious.

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Xiang Aoting gave him a sideways glance and put the roster down.
Once the squad broke up and everyone rushed to leave, he walked over to him.

Shi Jin looked up at him.
“My hand hurts,” he said.

Xiang Aoting frowned.
He crouched down and took his hand, asking, “Why, did you injure yourself?”

“No, I didn’t sleep well.” Shi Jin allowed his brother to pull his hand over.
Seeing that his hand stopped trembling the instant Xiang Aoting touched it, he sighed, his mood complex.
Curling his fingers, he took his hand back and said, “Fourth Brother, let’s find a place to sit and talk.”

Seeing his low mood, Xiang Aoting didn’t say anything, just reached out and pulled him to his feet.

Death Progress Bar is translated by Betwixted Translations.
Read on the original translator’s site to get the fastest updates!

Xiang Aoting took Shi Jin to the infirmary and asked the doctor to take a look at Shi Jin’s hand.
The pain in Shi Jin’s finger was caused by psychological reasons, so naturally, the doctor couldn’t find anything; in the end, he could only prescribe Shi Jin some medicine to relieve heat exhaustion.

After that, they went to the canteen for a meal, and then found a shady corner on the training field and sat down side by side.

“The weather forecast says it will rain in the next two days.
If it does, we’ll have to switch to indoor training—the national defense ideological education course, lectures, watching patriotic military movies, and so on.
You’ll be able to rest a little,” Xiang Aoting said, offering Shi Jin a bottle of chilled juice: “Here, have some.”

Shi Jin thanked him and took it; at the contact with the cold bottle, his hand started to ache again.
He lowered his head and whispered, “Fourth Brother, lately I’ve been having this nightmare.
In my dream, Dad had just passed away, and I had accepted the inheritance instead of refusing it.
And then, I was kidnapped, my face was disfigured, and my finger was cut off.
It hurt very much.
I was probably about to die, but then you came and saved me.”

Xiang Aoting frowned when he heard this, and turned his head to look at him.

“After I woke up, I started to feel pain in my hand, as if my finger had really been cut off.
It’s like what people call phantom limb pain, which is often experienced by those who have lost their limbs,” Shi Jin said, unconsciously turning the bottle in his fingers.
He raised his head to meet Xiang Aoting’s gaze, and continued, “Fourth Brother, there’s one thing I can’t understand.
In the dream, you disappeared right after saving me and never contacted me again… Why would you do that? If you were in this situation, what would have made you do that? Can you tell me?”

Xiang Aoting caught his hand and took the bottle out of it.
“Xiao Jin, it’s just a dream, it’s pointless to try to make sense of it.
Is this why you’ve been looking so worn-out these days? You should’ve told me you didn’t feel well, I’d…”

“Imagine it wasn’t a dream,” Shi Jin interrupted him, grabbing his hand and gripping it with great force.
“If it wasn’t a dream, and this had really happened? Xu Jie once asked Xu Chuan to hire Werewolf to kidnap me—do you remember what she wanted done? Disfigurement, cutting off my fingers… If I hadn’t given up the inheritance, or I hadn’t tried to commit suicide, or I hadn’t sneaked out of the hospital and met Lian Jun by chance… Then that’s what would have probably happened, don’t you think? Fourth Brother, that gruesome scene in my dream was actually a hair’s breadth away from becoming a reality.
Change just one little thing, and that would have been our ending.”

“Xiao Jin!” Xiang Aoting suddenly felt alarmed: Shi Jin’s eyes were blank and unfocused, and the sunny and confident aura that always surrounded him abruptly disappeared.
The teenager seemed to have been pulled into the abyss, wandering in the darkness and unable to get out.

And, what Shi Jin had described was indeed very likely to come to pass.
If the situation took just a little different course, Shi Jin would’ve been considered lucky if things happened as they had in the dream.
Fortunately, they avoided that ending by the skin of their teeth, and everyone still had a chance to mend their relationship and make up for the past.

“It’s just a hypothetical situation—in reality, you’re alive and well, and your brothers know their past actions weren’t right.
No one can hurt you again.” He touched Shi Jin’s head, saying soothingly, “Xiao Jin, it’s just a nightmare about the past.
The present and the future are more important, so don’t let those dreams hold you back.”

The hand touching Shi Jin’s head was very warm.
His agitated emotions calming down, Shi Jin slowly released Xiang Aoting’s hand and asked, “Then tell me: why would you in the dream save me and abandon me later?”

His gut feeling was telling him that the answer to this question was the key to get rid of the nightmares.
It was important, extremely important.

“Xiao Jin.” Xiang Aoting had no choice but to suppress his dislike of the contents of the dream and ponder the information it provided.
After a moment, he said, “If your dream was real and those things had really happened, then there would be only one reason for my disappearance.
If I remember right, the organization Xu Chuan hired, Werewolf, was a foreign criminal organization?”

Surprised at the question, Shi Jin blinked, then nodded.
“Yes, they mainly operated abroad.
In my dream, I was kidnapped abroad.”

“Well, then it has to be this.” Xiang Aoting sighed and said somewhat helplessly, “I’m a Chinese soldier and a member of a special unit at that.
If I went abroad to save you, I definitely would have gone without my superiors’ knowledge and approval.
Going AWOL like that certainly wouldn’t fly with the army.
So, if I ‘disappeared’ after saving you, I must’ve been getting punished and had no way to contact you.
How could I really abandon you, Xiao Jin? Whether I like you or not, you are still my brother.”

He raised a hand and touched Shi Jin’s head again, eyes filled with remorse.
“I’m sorry for making you feel so insecure.
With all that happened, we were so worried about Big Brother and forgot that it was you who’s been hurt the most.
I’m sorry.”

Shi Jin looked at him in a daze, feeling a lump in his throat.
Abruptly, he let out a low chuckle and hid his face in his hands, thinking that he was really too stupid since he hadn’t been able to figure this out all these days.

It was actually because of this, such a simple and obvious explanation… Yes, with Xiang Aoting’s character, there could have been only this one reason.
He was punished, he disappeared not because of his personal feelings, but because he was punished.

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‘Shi Jin’, ‘Shi Jin’, did you hear that? Your fourth brother has never thought of abandoning you, never.
He even sacrificed his career to save you; acting without permission is a very serious offense in the military.

An overwhelming relief suddenly flooded his heart.
He lowered his head and pressed his face on his arm, blocking the tears that rushed into his eyes, and took several deep breaths trying to suppress his emotions.

< Let it out, JinJin, you’ll feel better if you cry, > Xiao Si said, distressed for him.

“Why should I cry? I’m not the original ‘Shi Jin’, why do I have to help him cry?” Shi Jin growled in his mind.
However, he couldn’t hold it back any longer and began to cry, tears streaming down his cheeks and his shoulders shaking, like a hurt, aggrieved child.

Damn it, he didn’t want to get influenced by those embarrassing emotions left behind by the original ‘Shi Jin’! But… Fucking hell, this novel’s plot was a fucking mess of misunderstandings!

Xiang Aoting was startled by Shi Jin bursting out crying.
Bewildered, he reached out and tried to pull Shi Jin’s arm away.
“What happened, why are you crying? Did sand get in your eyes? Don’t block it, let me see…”

What’s there to see, huh?!

Shi Jin pushed his hand away and furiously wiped his eyes, then stood up and looked at Xiang Aoting with a scowl.
Suddenly, he reached out and grabbed his brother’s right hand, glaring at it—this hand, in the dream, it was this hand that ‘Shi Jin’ held tight and refused to let go.

“Xiao Jin?” Xiang Aoting looked at him with concern and confusion.
Seeing the teenager’s expression, he suppressed an untimely smile. Bawling his eyes out like this but still pretending to be tough—Xiao Jin looks like a child.

“If you dare to laugh, I’ll knock your teeth out,” Shi Jin threatened, noticing that the corners of Xiang Aoting’s mouth were twitching.
Without a warning, he bent down and gave a hard bite to the hand he held, then straightened and slapped the cap on his brother’s head, snorting.
After that, he wiped away his tears and walked away without looking back.

Next year, next year he’d definitely be strong enough to beat Xiang Aoting to the ground! Just wait!

Xiang Aoting straightened his cap and looked at the stomping-off teenager’s back, then at the tooth marks on his hand.
Unable to hold back anymore, he lowered his head and laughed.
When his gaze fell upon the traces of tears left on the ground where Shi Jin had sat, his laughter faded, and he stretched out his hand to touch the wet marks.
He recalled the dream Shi Jin described and the teenager’s trembling fingers, and his lips pressed into a straight line.

His younger brother had suffered too much.

He stroked the ground gently as if touching the top of someone’s head.

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

Shi Jin spent the precious free time catching up on sleep—after leaving Xiang Aoting, he went straight to his dorm room and threw himself on the bed.
That afternoon, he finally had a good rest, without dreams and without feeling smothered by confounding and complex emotions after waking up.

It was over.

He dropped his raised hand and looked up at the ceiling, letting out a long sigh.
He propped himself up, about to get down from his bunk and go have dinner when out of the corner of his eye, he saw a dark rectangular object lying next to his pillow.

Is this… His eyes lit up.
He immediately sat up, his eyes darting around like these of a thief.
Having made sure there was no one else in the room, he snatched the thing, woke it up, and took a look, finally confirming—it was Xiang Aoting’s mobile phone! Unlocked and put in the silent mode!

In order to instill a sense of independence in them, the freshmen were not allowed to use their phones during the whole period of military training, more than a month.
They could only contact their families through instructors.
Yet, Xiang Aoting secretly left him his phone!

This meant—he was helping Shi Jin contact Lian Jun?

Shi Jin pounded his fist on the bed, so excited he could fly.
Xiang Aoting was the best brother in the world! Long live, long live, long live!

He threw back the quilt and jumped down from his bunk, then ran to the door of the room and looked outside.
After confirming that there was no familiar face approaching, he squatted right behind the door, to keep an eye on the movement of students outside, and quickly dialed Lian Jun’s phone number.

Beep, beep, beep… Shi Jin waited anxiously.
Finally, when the phone almost hung up automatically, he heard a familiar voice from the receiver: {Yes?}

Ah, this cold and aloof tone, this deep and enchanting voice.

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A silly grin instantly spread across Shi Jin’s face.
He gave a cough and said, deliberately lowering the pitch of his voice, “Xiao Jin asked me to pass you a message—he says he misses you a little.”

Lian Jun’s tone immediately lost its coldness.
{Shi Jin?}

“No, I’m Xiang Aoting,” Shi Jin refuted, still imitating his brother.

Lian Jun chuckled.
He said indulgently, {All right, you’re Xiang Aoting.
So, does Shi Jin have anything else he wants you to pass on to me?}

“Yes,” Shi Jin replied, his smile so wide his eyes narrowed into slits.
He sat down on the floor right where he crouched, and continued, “He wants to ask if you’re eating properly, how is your exercise going, whether you’ve been busy recently, and if you’re sleeping well at night.”

Lian Jun gestured for Gua One, whom he’d been talking with, to leave temporarily.
Looking at Shi Jin’s photo he set as his desktop wallpaper, he answered the questions one by one: {Uncle Long changed my diet a while ago, and the new dishes taste awful.
Exercise is going well, I’m slowly getting better.
I’ve been a bit busy recently.
I don’t sleep well—I often wake up because I miss a certain someone very much.}

As Shi Jin listened, he imagined Lian Jun frowning while eating nutritional meals and waking up at night frequently, and his smile vanished.
His heart aching, he whispered, “Lian Jun, I want to see you.”

Lian Jun reached up and touched the picture of Shi Jin on the desktop, his smile fading as well.
{Me too.} I want to see you, I want to see you so much I’m beginning to hate my identity for not allowing me to step into the world of light you belong in.

Hearing the tone of his lover’s voice, Shi Jin couldn’t endure any longer.
He hung up, browsed through Xiang Aoting’s phone, found the messaging app, and opened it.
Not paying any attention to the chat group pinned on top that showed a large number of messages, he logged out of Xiang Aoting’s account, logged in to his own, and made a video call to Lian Jun.

Barely a second later, Lian Jun appeared on the phone screen.

Shi Jin stared at it without blinking, only relaxing after Lian Jun’s image was completely clear.
Trying to look as if everything was normal, he smiled at the camera.
“You look a little thinner,” he said.
“You’re not allowed to do this, you know? You need to eat properly.
I’ll check when I go back.”

{Then I’ll try to eat a little more at every meal.} Lian Jun leaned closer to the screen, as if to take a better look at Shi Jin.
Suddenly, he frowned.
{Why are your eyes swollen?}

Um… because I went to sleep right after crying.

A bit guilty, Shi Jin covered his expression by raising a hand to scratch his hair.
“Today, we had half a day’s free time, and I spent it sleeping.
I guess they’re swollen from sleep.”

Lian Jun was not so easy to fool.
He scrutinized Shi Jin’s face, his frown deepening.
{You have such heavy dark circles under your eyes.
You aren’t sleeping well over there?}

He had nightmares every day, it would be strange if he slept well.

A bit regretting making a video call, he evaded, “No, I don’t have dark circles, it’s just a tan.
It’s hard to avoid getting tanned during military training since we’re outside almost all the time…”

Lian Jun’s gaze fell on his body again.
His expression darkened as he noticed a bruise on Shi Jin’s exposed arm.
{Why do you have bruises? Are you getting bullied? Is this how Xiang Aoting looks after you?}

“No, no, I fell down while sparring.
Don’t worry, my brother is taking good care of me—see, didn’t he secretly let me use his mobile phone?” Shi Jin explained hurriedly.
Adjusting the camera angle so that only his face would be visible, he reassured, “Really, I’m fine here, I’m not hurt and I’m not being bullied.
You don’t need to worry.”

After his face was magnified, Shi Jin’s dark circles became even more evident, and looking closely, one could see how bloodshot his eyes were.

This clearly wasn’t the appearance of someone who’d just woke up.

Lian Jun’s hands clenched tightly, but he didn’t show anything on his face.
Seeing Shi Jin anxiously thinking of an explanation, he forced his expression to relax and changed the topic.
{Is military training hard? Are you tired?}

Shi Jin breathed a sigh of relief and began to describe the events of the past few days, deliberately picking the most amusing incidents in order to make him smile.
Lian Jun listened attentively; watching the teenager gradually become more and more energetic, his clenched hands relaxed.

The two had chatted for only ten minutes when Luo Donghao came back, interrupting their call.
Shi Jin reluctantly logged out of the messenger app, erased his login information, and hid the phone.
Then, knuckles cracking, he went to have a “man-to-man talk” with Luo Donghao!

At the club, Lian Jun looked at the dark phone screen, remembering the expression of dismay that appeared on Shi Jin’s face when they had to end the call.
His hand clenching again, he raised his voice to call Gua One back.

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The next day, Shi Jin went to the training ground ahead of the assembly time.
As expected, he saw Xiang Aoting, who had also come there early.

“Thank you for lending me your phone,” Shi Jin said, stopping next to his brother and passing him his cap.

Xiang Aoting glanced at the mobile phone hidden inside and suppressed a smile.
He took the phone and handed the cap back.
“Did you sleep well last night?”

“Yes, very well.
When I got up this morning, my hand didn’t ache anymore,” Shi Jin replied, putting the cap back on.
Out of blue, he asked, “Say, will they award a cadet with a medal and award certificate for taking the first place in training?”

Xiang Aoting eyed him.
“Yeah, why?”

“I want to bring my boyfriend some souvenirs back,” Shi Jin replied, domineeringly raising his chin.
“And my boyfriend deserves only the best, so naturally I’m going to get him the best.”

Xiang Aoting frowned and reached out to tap his cap.
“Nonsense, the training is for your own sake.”

Shi Jin quickly leaned back to protect his hat and added, “Oh, I don’t know, when I first arrived here, I seem to recall somebody saying that his younger brother wasn’t allowed to do just ‘well enough’.
Who was that, though?”

Xiang Aoting faltered, then tried to explain, “I didn’t mean it like this, you…”

“Okay, okay, since when have you become such a nag?” Shi Jin interrupted him, straightening up.
Seeing his brother frown again, his expression abruptly turned serious.
“Fourth Brother, if I get first place in the military training, go back to the Air Force,” he said firmly.

Taken aback, Xiang Aoting began, “Xiao Jin…”

“Don’t give up on your career because of me.
The time for a soldier to be able to fight freely is too short—I’d rather watch you soar in a blue sky than stuck in a military base like this.” Shi Jin looked up at him and said solemnly, “My, Shi Jin’s older brother, is not allowed to be just an ordinary soldier.
You have to go all out and become the best in the field where your talents lie, only then I will acknowledge you.”

Xiang Aoting was deeply moved.
Suddenly, he smiled and put his hand on top of Shi Jin’s head, pressing down.
“Okay, I will try my best to make you acknowledge me.”

Shi Jin slapped his hand off and glared at him, annoyed.
“I told you not to touch my head! Are you picking a fight with me?”

Not far away, Luo Donghao stared in shock at Xiang Aoting and Shi Jin “flirting”.
In his mind, there appeared all kinds of messy romance novel titles—“Overbearing Instructor Fell in Love With Me”, “Quarrelsome Couple: From Hate to Love”, “The Man Who Made the Spoiled Young Master Grow Up”, and so on.
He couldn’t help but stagger a step backward, raising a hand to his chest.
Was-was it really like this? The reason why the instructor liked to make things difficult for Shi Jin was…

Xiang Aoting and Shi Jin both noticed Luo Donghao’s gawking and turned to look at him.

By now, Luo Donghao had completely convinced himself the story his mind produced is true.
He turned and hid behind a tree, trying to pretend he’d never been here.

“What’s wrong with him?” Xiang Aoting asked, frowning.

Shi Jin shook his head.
“I don’t know.
Maybe he ate too much for breakfast and now couldn’t help but throw up?”

Death Progress Bar is translated by Betwixted Translations.
Read on the original translator’s site to get the fastest updates!

The squad members found that after the half-day’s rest time, Shi Jin’s enthusiasm for training suddenly increased.

Up to this point, none of them had realized it about Shi Jin—after all, the cadets were still only doing the basic exercises.
Everyone already knew that Shi Jin’s physical fitness was very good, so they didn’t feel particularly shocked or incredulous that Shi Jin performed better than an average freshman; at most, they only sighed that he really didn’t look like a rich young master.

However, when the basic training was over and they moved on to the obstacle course race, it finally dawned on them—this “young master” was simply a monster!

When everyone was still learning how to crawl properly, Shi Jin had already made it through the low crawl like a breeze, making the cadets behind him eat dust; when everyone was still trying to climb the first wall and failed miserably, Shi Jin had neatly climbed over the last one and sat down to have a drink of water and rest; during combat practice, Shi Jin had to spar with the instructor because he could easily defeat any student, even when they were allowed to cooperate and go against him in twos or threes… In short, everyone stood on the land of mortals and looked up at Shi Jin sauntering in the world of the strong, feeling so frustrated they almost couldn’t breathe.

“What the hell they’ve been feeding him when he was growing up…” Liu Yong collapsed on the side of the sand pit.
As he watched Shi Jin—who had been training for the whole afternoon but still had the energy to spar with Xiang Aoting—Liu Yong felt he wasn’t worthy to breathe the same air as him.

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Luo Dongao plopped down next to him and wiped the sweat on his forehead.
Also watching Shi Jin, he said, “I’ll tell you something even worse—during the room inspection, Shi Jin got the highest score.
On our second day here, he could fold his quilt into a tofu block.”

“Argh, I don’t want to live anymore.” Heartbroken, Liu Yong turned to lie on his side.
Out of the corner of his eye, he caught the scene of Shi Jin hitting Xiang Aoting’s shoulder with a punch, and felt his own shoulder ache.
Shrinking his neck, he commented, “The instructor seems to like Shi Jin very much.
He spars with him every day and teaches him moves and everything.
Ah, I’m really envious.”

Luo Donghao’s expression froze.
He watched Shi Jin stop after hitting Xiang Aoting and rush forward to check his arm with a look of concern and Xiang Aoting pat his head saying he was okay, and closed his eyes forcefully.
“Don’t be envious, this isn’t something you should envy…” he uttered in a voice of someone who’d experienced the vicissitudes of life.
“That aside, you’d better train.
The day after tomorrow, we’re supposed to learn shooting—if you don’t pass through the obstacle course until then, do you want to bet whether the instructor will leave you to train here alone?”

Liu Yong shuddered and hurriedly got up from the ground.
As a thought crossed his mind, he cheered up.
“Shi Jin is good at everything else, but maybe his marksmanship sucks? My uncle has a shooting range, and I basically grew up holding a gun.
Maybe I can beat him? What do you think?”

Seeing the look of optimism on his face, Luo Donghao wanted to speak but bit his tongue.
In the end, he only let out a quiet sigh and walked away.

Death Progress Bar is translated by Betwixted Translations.
Read on the original translator’s site to get the fastest updates!

Two days later, the shooting range.

Luo Donghao gestured with his chin towards the target Shi Jin had just hit, asking, “Liu Yong, can you win?”

“The fuck…” Liu Yong was about to cry.
“Is Shi Jin a monster? Even at shooting, he’s the best! Isn’t it enough he’s good at everything else? Let others live, will you…”

Luo Donghao patted him on the shoulder, comforting, “It’s alright, you still have a chance—there’s one more activity we haven’t done.”

Liu Yong angrily pushed off his hand.
“Chance, my foot! The last activity tests physical strength and endurance! You think I can win at that?!”

The author has something to say:

Extra: what if Shi Jin hadn’t ignored the chat group messages when he used Xiang Aoting’s phone but actually read them

Rong Zhouzhong: Fourth’s photography skills suck.
There’s not a single picture showing the face! Just look at these, they’re all taken from the back blah blah blah… [picture]

Shi Weichong: Indeed, there aren’t any.

Fei Yujing: This one is passable. [picture]

Li Jiuzheng silently forwarded the photo, then changed his profile picture.

A few seconds later.

Rong Zhouzhong: Hey! Despicable, Fifth! How dare you use Xiao Jin’s photo as the profile picture?!

Li Jiuzheng: .

Rong Zhouzhong: Don’t fucking pretend to die, change it back right now!

Rong Zhouzhong: Fifth, you #¥%@%¥

Shi Jin: “……” The heck is this?

He swiped his finger to browse through the chat history.

Ten minutes later, Xiang Aoting’s phone gave up the ghost under Shi Jin’s foot.

#Who needs older brothers anyway#

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