On the way back to school, Shi Jin was subjected to a storm of questions from his classmates.

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“The instructor really is your brother?”

Shi Jin nodded.
“Honest to goodness.”

“Then why were you hiding it?”

Shi Jin let out a sigh.
“When the training started, people thought of me as a good-for-nothing pampered young master.
If everyone knew that we’re brothers, I was afraid the rumors would get even worse, so I decided not to say anything.”

Everyone understood the implication and fell silent, unable to refute.
Indeed, if back then they’d heard that the “spoiled young master’s” brother was one of their military instructors, the rumor mill would’ve gone into overdrive churning out outrageous tales.

“Back then we all thought those rumors were true, and everyone repeated them.
I believed them too and didn’t even bother to find out if they had any basis.
I even repeated them to others… I’m sorry, Shi Jin, I won’t be so careless from now on,” one student apologized.

Shi Jin hurriedly waved the apologies off.
“It’s okay, it was just a misunderstanding.
Besides, we’ve cleared it up already,” he said, topping it off with other pleasantries such as “as classmates, let’s try to get along well” and the like.

After the first person apologized, others promptly followed suit, and the atmosphere in the bus gradually relaxed and warmed.
A student who’d happened to witness Shi Jin reporting to school teased good-humoredly, “But, Shi Jin, you can’t blame us for misunderstanding.
The sports car you came in? It’s a limited edition.
The model looks very distinctive, too.
It’s no wonder everyone noticed.
And your relatives were, uh… how should I put it, extremely outspoken.”

Shi Jin recalled Li Jiuzheng’s “The front gate looks rather plain” and Rong Zhouzhong’s “Red cars are girly” and other aggro-pulling remarks, and covered his face with his hands.
He said despairingly, “I’m sorry, I know what they sounded like, but they really didn’t mean it.
They weren’t mean on purpose, just…” Just extraordinarily brainless.

“No, it’s fine, you don’t have to apologize, it’s not like anyone has any right to judge anyone else’s family.
That aside, who were they? They looked pretty young—your cousins?”

“Ye-yes, something like that,” Shi Jin replied vaguely, his expression stiff.

“Your family’s genes are really good, everyone looks handsome,” a student who also saw Shi Jin at that time sighed with feeling.

“Yeah, I thought some people from the nearby film and television school lost their way and wandered in,” someone else chimed in, joining the conversation.

Back then, rumors were numerous and spread like wildfire.
Now that the students got an opportunity to get to know the truth, they, of course, latched on to it without hesitation.
Shi Jin sat there, blank-eyed, wondering how the topic turned into this.

“I remember that one person had been wearing a mask the whole time.
Why? Did he have a cold?” Classmate A asked.

“No… His mouth was badly swollen from eating chili peppers the day before, and he didn’t dare to go outside without a mask,” Shi Jin replied with an awkward smile.

“Hahaha, so his mouth was swollen! Some people were wondering if he was a celebrity.
They ridiculed him for being conceited and believing he was so famous he had to hide his face when he accompanied a relative to report at school, as if he was some kind of superstar,” Classmate B laughed out loud.

Shi Jin was a little unhappy with these words.
Squeezing his cap, he said, “Why? He’s free to wear a mask if he wants to.
Insulting him because of this is too much.” And Rong Zhouzhong was very famous—him going out without covering his face was asking for trouble.

Classmate B stiffened, his expression turning embarrassed.
“Uh… Er, yeah, it’s too much.”

The inside of the bus fell quiet for a moment.
After a pause, Classmate C broke the silence: “Shi Jin, I heard that your cousin said that our dormitory was too shabby and unfit for people to live in, and that he would buy you a villa next to the school.
Is that true?”

Where did they even hear it? What “too shabby and unfit for people to live in,” what “buy you a villa”—the way it was phrased was too malicious.

His brow furrowing, Shi Jin explained, “My fifth brother… er, he’s the fifth-oldest child in our generation.
Anyway, my fifth brother is a doctor and is a bit of a neat freak.
He only felt that not having an independent bathroom in the dorm room was inconvenient and suggested that I’d live off-campus and commute to school.
He never said anything about the room being too shabby or buying a villa.
Whoever started this rumor distorted the truth, and then it probably got even more exaggerated as it was passed on.”

“What about you being filthy rich?” Classmate D asked.
“People say you started showing off as soon as you arrived at school.”

Up until now, Shi Jin had only a vague idea of what people were saying behind his back.
At this moment, bombarded by everyone’s questions, he understood why a usually amiable Luo Donghao tried to pick a fight with him at the beginning of the military training.
These weren’t some ordinary, garden-variety rumors—they reached the level of malicious slander and character assassination!

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Shi Jin suppressed his displeasure with gossipers and replied helplessly, “What do you mean by showing off? As far as I remember, that day, I simply came to report at school accompanied by my relatives, just like everyone else.
If by ‘showing off’ you mean I wore slightly more expensive clothes than the others, then I guess yeah, I was showing off.”

After spending more than a month together, Shi Jin’s classmates already understood his character.
They saw that he was upset and hurried to comfort him, saying that he didn’t choose to be born to a wealthy family and that nobody should be discriminated against because of their family’s conditions, and scolded the people who spread the rumors.

Shi Jin was relieved to see this topic abandoned.
He smiled and calmed his classmates, saying that it was fine since they didn’t misunderstand him anymore.

The atmosphere was easing down again when a discordant voice cut in:

“So you say that it’s because your family is loaded, people started calling you a show-off? I find it hard to believe—there are a lot of rich students in our school, but no one thinks of them as ‘arrogant young masters.’”

In an instant, the silence fell.
Everyone turned to look at the speaker and were stunned to find an unfamiliar face.

“Who are you?” Liu Yong asked, confused.
“I thought each squad rides on a separate bus. How come we have a stranger?”

“I know!” Classmate D said.
“One of the instructors brought him.
He’s a second-year student.
Because of a leg injury, he didn’t participate in the military training last year, so he was making up for it this year.
There were not enough places on the other bus, so the instructor let him ride with us.
He took second place in the military training—I remember seeing him go on stage to receive the award certificate!”

So it was a sophomore.
Everyone looked at each other, at a loss; for a moment, they weren’t sure how to deal with the situation.

“So, Young Master Shi Jin, what is it that your family does? How wealthy has someone to be to make others feel that he’s showing off just by acting normally?” The young man seemed to relish being the center of attention.
He looked as if he was simply curious, but his gaze fixed on Shi Jin was full of malice.

Shi Jin thought the guy was sick.
He looked the other person up and down, and instead of replying, asked leisurely, “Little Ming’s grandfather lived to be one hundred years old, do you know why?”

The joke was so old that everyone knew it.
The originally tense atmosphere became odd in an instant, and the already recovered Luo Donghao laughed out loud and said, “Because he minded his own business! Even if someone had a pile of gold bars stacked in their house, what business of yours is that, senior?”

“Yeah, no one likes a busybody,” Liu Yong immediately added.

The other students echoed their remarks, uniting against the outsider.
This result was quite different from what the sophomore expected, and his countenance alternately blushed and paled as he faced their unanimous opposition. 

Shi Jin happily watched from the sidelines, breathing a sigh of relief—great, there appeared a cannon fodder to take everyone’s attention off him.

Because there was an “outsider” present, they were more restrained and only chatted about casual topics for the rest of the journey.

More than an hour later, the bus arrived at the school.
After putting their baggage away in their dorm rooms and retrieving their mobile phones from the teachers, everyone was ready to enjoy the short holiday after the military training.

“Shi Jin, do you want to go to my family’s bowling alley? We can stop for lunch on the way, my treat!” Liu Yong asked as he rushed into Shi Jin’s room, followed by Luo Donghao, who had already changed back into casual clothes.

Shi Jin, still in uniform, was packing his documents and some other things in a backpack.
He shook his head and said, “Thanks for the invitation, but my boyfriend came to pick me up.
Let’s play together next time? I need to go now, see you guys later.” Finished, he threw the backpack on his back and pretty much sprinted out of the room, never looking back.

“Oh…” Liu Yong could only watch him disappear.
He turned to look at Luo Donghao and asked, “Did I just hear what I think I heard?”

Luo Donghao blinked, rubbing his ears suspiciously.
He was in a daze for a few seconds, then roared in disbelief, “Boyfriend? Shi Jin actually has a boyfriend?!”

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

Shi Jin ran all the way to the school gate.
He turned off the main street outside the school, crossed an alley to reach another main road, and looked around.
Sure enough, he saw a familiar black car parked on the left side of the street.
His eyes brightening, he ran over to it, opened the rear door, and got in.

“Yo! Where did this little policeman come from? His skin looks very dark,” Gua Two teased from the driver’s seat.

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Shi Jin flipped him the bird, threw off his backpack, and reached out to hug Lian Jun, who was watching him fondly.
After he fully confirmed his lover’s presence, he released his hold and sat upright, straightening his cap.
“How’s my uniform?” he asked.

“It makes me want to pull out my gun on you,” Gua Two replied first.
Receiving a “full of love” eye roll from Shi Jin, he sensibly shut up and raised the partition wall while starting the engine, making the back of the car a separate space.

Lian Jun shot an admonishing glance at Gua Two, then carefully studied how Shi Jin looked in uniform.
“It looks very cool,” he said, reaching out to caress the younger man’s cheek.

Complimented by his beloved, Shi Jin was content.
“The summer uniform is relatively plain.
The winter uniform, on the other hand, is quite intricate and looks even cooler—when we’re allowed to change uniforms, I’ll show you.”

With Shi Jin’s return, the atmosphere instantly seemed to become brighter and more lively.
Feeling the corners of his mouth rise, Lian Jun nodded.
Are you hot? Have you had lunch?”

“The car has air conditioning, I’m not hot.
I haven’t eaten lunch yet,” Shi Jin replied.
Suddenly, he took out his phone, saying, “Let’s take a picture together as a memento.
I don’t get so tanned very often.”

Lian Jun’s smile deepened.
He leaned over and took several photos with Shi Jin, then took off the younger man’s cap and tidied up his flattened hair.
“We’re going straight to the airport,” he said.
“I’m sorry, there’s no time for you to rest properly.”

“Straight to the airport?” Shi Jin was stunned.
The joy on his face faded, and he stopped flipping through the pictures on his phone.
“Why are you in such a hurry? Is the situation in G Province so bad?”

Lian Jun nodded.
Other organizations got involved—I have to go and take a look at the situation in person.
Must be hard on you, following me running about.”

“It’s not hard on me at all,” Shi Jin replied, frowning.
Seeing that Lian Jun was in a low mood, he remembered something and reached for his backpack.
He took out two award certificates and two red velvet boxes and thrust them all into Lian Jun’s hands, saying, “Here, your gift.
Do you like it?”


Lian Jun was taken aback.
He first read the award certificates; his expression changed a little, and he glanced at Shi Jin’s face, full of pride and expectation.
The corners of his mouth hooking up, he opened the velvet boxes.

Two carefully made medals laid inside.
One was a golden five-pointed star with Shi Jin’s name and a date engraved in a regular script in the middle; it was modest and elegant.
The other was round with spikes around it, resembling the shape of the sun.
A red band ran along the edge of the circle, enclosing a picture in relief: two ears of wheat converging towards the center from the edge, surrounding a number written in cursive script, with Shi Jin’s name below, and a string of numbers in a smaller font under it.

“This medal is for getting first place in military training.
The big number is our class year, and the small number under my name is my student number.
This one is the ‘outstanding cadet’ medal—the five-pointed star symbolizes hope,” Shi Jin explained, then took both medals out of the boxes and put them in Lian Jun’s hand.
“You said that we are one.
All the honors I get, half is yours.”

Lian Jun’s hand trembled, then he quickly clenched the two medals in his palm.
Looking at Shi Jin’s silly expression, completely unsuitable for this moment, he couldn’t help but pull the younger man into his arms.
He felt a lump in his throat and didn’t speak.

“I knew you would like this gift.
My efforts to get it weren’t wasted, then.” Shi Jin hugged him back, contentedly breathing in his smell, the smell that was part of his home. “Lian Jun, I won’t let you regret sending me to the police academy.
I want to protect you, too.” So don’t be afraid that after I set foot on the sunlit path, I will leave you behind in the darkness.
We are one, and we will be one forever.

How could Lian Jun not understand the meaning of this gift? Tightening his embrace even more, he turned his head to the side and kissed Shi Jin’s hair, whispering, “I understand, I heard you loud and clear… Thank you, Shi Jin.” Thank you for appearing in my life.

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 changed his clothes in the car, took out the proposal ring Lian Jun gave him and put it on.
He also ate some light snacks prepared in the car to tide him over until dinner.
Lian Jun frowned at this, regretting that he didn’t order the kitchen to prepare a proper meal to bring with him.

To get to G Province, they again chartered a plane.
Besides Annihilation members, there were also some unfamiliar people on board.

Lian Jun got in his seat with Shi Jin’s help.
Seeing the teenager glance around suspiciously, he explained, “They’re officials.
G Province is Tarantula’s home ground.
The government plans to wipe out Tarantula completely or, at the very least, to deal some serious damage to its foundation.
Tarantula started out as a smuggling ring, and they also made money off the sex trade; potentially, there is a lot that can be used against them.
When Aunt Lu became the organization leader, she immediately cleaned up the worst of Tarantula’s businesses, but she didn’t have enough time to fix everything that could bite them.
This time, the officials are cracking down on Tarantula’s smuggling business.
They want to destroy Tarantula’s main network—first, the channel between G Province and Formosa, then the channels leading out of Formosa.
These officials are here to assist us.
We’re supposed to coordinate to bring Tarantula down, with us working in the darkness and them aboveboard.”

So decisive? Directly destroying Tarantula’s main business network?

Frowning, Shi Jin stopped peeking at the officials and sat down next to Lian Jun.
“You said that other organizations got involved.
What’s going on?”

“Tarantula’s channels in G Province are a goose laying golden eggs.
Some underworld organizations with empty pockets would fish in troubled waters to gain control over it,” Lian Jun replied.
He called for a flight attendant and ordered Shi Jin a lunch.

Shi Jin waited for the flight attendant to leave, then asked, “Underworld organizations also can be short of money? From what I’ve seen, everyone seems to be filthy rich.” Whether it was Annihilation, Tarantula, Nine Eagles, or the now-dissolved Phantom, the organizations’ upper echelons all treated money like dirt.

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Seeing him full of curiosity, Lian Jun didn’t mind sharing more knowledge.
“Of course they can, especially when they’re rapidly expanding.
Underworld organizations make money quickly, but they also spend it quickly—the stakes are always high and their business environment is unstable.
A small conflict between organizations can consume more resources than a medium-sized enterprise can earn in a month.
In addition to weapons, which account for the largest part of expenditure, there are other expenses such as transportation and accommodation of personnel, medical support, vehicles for local transport… All these things cost a lot of money.
Organizations that don’t have it can’t survive—those that last all have some chips in their hands.”

Shi Jin shuddered as he recalled the “extravagant” way Gua Two and the others used weaponry during every operation, and what Lian Jun must’ve spent to help him put on the “play” for Xu Jie.
“That, um, Annihilation’s chips…”

“We have more than enough.” Seeing through Shi Jin’s thoughts at a glance, Lian Jun reached out to stroke his head, reassuring him, “Don’t worry, what you spent was just a chump change—you’ll have to try much harder than that to bankrupt me.
Right now Annihilation is basically self-sufficient, and we also have our own channels for weapons, so we don’t spend much money.”

‘A chump change,’ you say… You wouldn’t have a private munitions factory, would you?

Shi Jin glanced at him, but he wisely decided not to ask this question out loud.
Catching sight of the flight attendant coming to deliver him lunch, he put this topic on hold for the time being and prepared to fill his stomach.

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

The flight arrived in G Province on schedule.
After getting off the plane, Gua Two contacted Gua One, then led their group out of the airport through the VIP exit and to the black commercial MPVs waiting outside.

The government personnel had a separate car.
Finally able to relax, Shi Jin leaned on Lian Jun the moment they got in, and said, “Those officials kept sneaking glances at us, it felt kind of creepy.”

“Ignore them, someone will ‘educate’ them,” Lian Jun comforted, letting him rest against himself.
“How’s the situation?” he asked Gua One, who had been waiting in the car.

“Not too great.”

This short sentence immediately grabbed everyone’s attention.

Shi Jin sat up and looked at Gua One with a frown.

Gua One didn’t keep them in suspense.
“Our investigation shows that aside from previously identified Snake Fang, Meridian Gate and Epoch are also involved.”

Gua Two’s expression changed.
“What? They’re all top echelon legal organizations! Have they gone mad?”

“It gets worse.
We originally expected these organizations to slowly gravitate towards Tarantula’s side in the aftermath of the conflict between Tarantula and Annihilation, and eventually form an alliance with Tarantula to attack us.
But now that the government interfered, Tarantula might not be even considered as an ally.
They even decided to take advantage of their misfortune.”

“Fuck! The officials are damn pig teammates!” Gua Two couldn’t help but curse.
The situation was worse than they thought; he was so angry he could kill those “teammates.”

“Who’s leading them, Snake Fang?” Lian Jun asked.
“Top echelon organizations are so tacitly helping the government crush Tarantula—someone must be a middleman.”

“Yes, it’s Snake Fang.
They must’ve offered to share the ‘spoils’ with Meridian Gate and Epoch to persuade them to form an alliance,” Gua One replied, his expression grim.
“If they succeed, we’ll be in a tight spot.”

Gua Two’s mood had already been homicidal.
Tight spot? How about  ‘done for’? Other underworld organizations had always been fearful and resentful of Annihilation, because of its relationship with the authorities.
If Tarantula fell, Annihilation would have no one to rely on, no insiders on the enemy side, and the only ally they’d be left with would be the government—the very same government that would get rid of them the moment they stop being useful.
They would pretty much lose the game before it even started!

Aware of the seriousness of the situation, everyone turned to look at Lian Jun, waiting for him to come up with a plan.

Lian Jun slowly tapped his finger on his knee, eyes half-closed as he pondered.
His composed and steady appearance made the others calm down as well.

“There’s no need to worry,” he said finally, breaking the silence.
“The fact that Snake Fang is in charge means that things aren’t difficult to handle.
Forging an alliance isn’t that easy for large organizations; it hasn’t been long since this situation broke out, and the three of them should not have a close relationship yet.
After Nine Eagles and Phantom disappeared, Snake Fang began to expand wildly—it’s obvious to anyone what its ambition is.
But the leaders of Meridian Gate and Epoch? One is prideful but cautious; the other cunning and greedy.
I doubt that either of them likes Snake Fang’s reckless and wanton style.
They haven’t come here to fish in troubled waters, they’ve come here to test the waters.”

Gua Two looked thoughtful.
After a few seconds, his expression suddenly relaxed and even became a little gloating.
“Jun-shao, you mean that Meridian Gate and Epoch are actually more inclined towards Tarantula?”

Lian Jun nodded.
“Neither Meridian Gate nor Epoch lacks money—what they lack is an environment where they can develop freely.
In other words, on the surface, they have the same goal as Tarantula: to get rid of Annihilation and cut off the government’s connection to the underworld.”

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“Everyone wants to kill us. Ah, it’s so lonely to be hated by the entire world,” Gua Two pretended to lament, cheerfully leaning back in his seat and crossing one leg over the other.

Gua One also relaxed.
“I was so anxious I almost took things at the face value.
I’m sorry, Jun-shao.”

Lian Jun waved his apologies away.
Having finished the discussion, he turned to Shi Jin to ask what he’d like to have for dinner, only to face the teenager’s bewildered, inquiring gaze.

“Um… can anyone explain to me why you all suddenly stopped being worried?” Shi Jin asked sheepishly, wondering if his IQ had suddenly dropped.
“I don’t really understand what you discussed just now…” Although he had read the information about all the large organizations, in the end, it was just dry facts, so he still was confused about the relationships between them.

The inside of the car fell silent.
Gua Two looked at Shi Jin’s tanned, befuddled face, and suddenly burst out laughing.
Patting the teenager on the shoulder, he said, “They say that the army toughens people up.
Turns out that the army really toughens people up—to the point that even the brain turns into muscle.
C’mere, bud, this big brother will explain everything to you, slowly and in simple words.”

Embarrassed and angry, Shi Jin threw off his hand and tried to punch him.

Gua One and Lian Jun watched them roughhouse and smiled unconsciously, their mood lightening.
Sure enough, as long as Shi Jin was around, the atmosphere would never be tense.


The brothers’ group chat, the second day after Shi Jin finished his military training:



Dead silence.

Rong Zhouzhong [suddenly stirring]: Fourth, I think being a teacher at the police academy is a great line of work.
You could retire from the military and change careers.

Xiang Aoting [seeing through his scheme]: There’s no point.
I just got the message that Xiao Jin was assigned to a mission and he won’t be back until the end of the term.
Looks like Lian Jun’s handiwork.

Shi Weichong [patient]: He shouldn’t neglect his studies.

Fei Yujing [perceptive]: As expected of Lian Jun, snatching people with such finesse.
All right, everyone, snap out of it and go do your own things.

Li Jiuzheng [‘Go do your own things’?]: Oh.

System prompt: Li Jiuzheng has left the group chat.

Rong Zhouzhong: ???

Translator’s Notes:

“My fifth brother… er, he’s the fifth-oldest child in our generation” – in China, you’d call your (paternal) cousins “brothers” too, so no one is surprised that Shi Jin calls his “cousin” Li Jiuzheng “brother.” “Little Ming’s grandfather lived to be one hundred years old, do you know why?” – 
the anecdote goes something like:
Someone saw a small child eating ice cream.
Out of concern, he told him, “Eating ice cream on such a cold day will make your tummy hurt!”
The child replied, “My grandpa lived to be 103 years old, do you know why?”
“I don’t know—because he liked to eat ice cream?”
“No, because he never meddled in other people’s business!” Formosa – as we all know, DPB’s action takes place in a sort of an alternate reality.
“Formosa” is one of the historical names of Taiwan. Meridian Gate – the name comes from the southern and largest gate of the Forbidden City in Beijing.
It seems to be an odd name for a criminal organization, I thought… until the moment I consulted the opinions of the team members and Velvet said, “Oh, this name is interesting.
That’s the place where they chopped people’s heads off.”

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