Notice Temporarily unedited, read at your own risk

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Not giving Zhang Zhuoyang a chance to get his thoughts in order, Lian Jun threw out another punch: “And I’d like to remind you of one more thing.
Meridian Gate, Epoch, and Snake Fang have experienced living with Annihilation, a ‘sellout’—once they are in control, I’m afraid that the government finding an ally like Annihilation will be nothing more than a pipe dream.”

Zhang Zhuoyang got another shock, and now fully realized the seriousness of the matter.
His expression turned ugly as he remembered what the situation looked like in the past when the officials had yet to cooperate with Annihilation and were completely suppressed by the underworld organizations.
He looked at Lian Jun.
“So what should we do now? Just pack up and retreat? But, but…”

“But if you do, you’ll lose face… is what you want to say?” Lian Jun finished, seeing right through him.

Zhang Zhuoyang forced himself to swallow his embarrassment and explained, “To tell you the truth, at the beginning of our operation, a message from Tarantula saying that they hoped to resolve the misunderstanding by negotiating was passed on to me, but I ignored it… Tarantula is a legal organization; if we let it off this time, we will have no choice but get in touch with it again.

Shi Jin really wanted to roll his eyes.
He felt that this time, the authorities had most certainly not been on top of their game.

Since you know that Tarantula is a legal underworld organization, why didn’t you bother to find a justifiable reason to turn on it? When you dealt with Black Rose, you remembered to charge it with a terrorist attack, and when you cleaned up Nine Eagles, you accused it of colluding with foreign forces, so why did you just attack Tarantula without a word? Are you stupid? Or just so confident that you believed you can destroy Tarantula right away, leaving it no opportunity to settle accounts?

I don’t even know what to call this.
First, you just attacked Tarantula without giving a reason and refused to accept talks.
Now that you know you can’t defeat it, you want to stop fighting and preferably for the other party to treat this whole thing as if it didn’t happen and not to call you out on it.
Because if not, maybe they’ll, oh, totally unreasonably hold a grudge or something? Basically, all is well as long as things benefit you, and the others should just grit their teeth and obediently take a beating, and never look for you to settle accounts?

Or were you so desperate to perform the “we’re allies, so of course we have to avenge you” play for Lian Jun that you neglected to consider all this?

Probably realizing that what he was saying was too shameless, Zhang Zhuoyang’s voice gradually drifted off.
The cold sweat of fear turning into hot sweat of shame, he kept wiping it off to hide his embarrassment.

Unknowingly, the subject under discussion changed from “how to finish off Tarantula” to “how the government should deal with the problems arising from letting Tarantula off.” Having achieved his goal, Lian Jun’s posture relaxed.
He poured Zhang Zhuoyang another cup of tea, comforting, “You don’t need to worry, Director.
This time, the government’s actions can’t be considered to be unjustified—and since it was Tarantula who was in the wrong first, they won’t be able to put up a fuss about this matter.”

“Eh?” Taken aback, Zhang Zhuoyang raised his head to look at him, a glimmer of hope appearing in his eyes.
“What do you mean?”

Lian Jun took a sip of tea and said, “The difference between legal and illegal underworld organizations is that the former have to follow certain rules.
From the moment Tarantula was listed as legal, it became subject to those restrictions.
As such, since it broke the rules, it’s normal for it to be punished.”

“‘It broke the rules’?” Zhang Zhuoyuan was puzzled.
“But Tarantula has been quiet and well-behaved these days.
I don’t think they’ve done anything questionable recently.”

“They haven’t? They must have or the government wouldn’t target them, would it? After Nine Eagles fell, I remember that you once issued a document stipulating that normal disputes of interests between legal organizations were allowed as long as they were kept within reasonable bounds—maliciously targeting the life of a leader was absolutely forbidden.
This time, not only Tarantula broke this rule, but it even chose to do it in B city, the very capital of the country.
This is a double offense and it naturally deserves punishment,” Lian Jun hinted, casting a meaningful glance towards the corner where Shi Jin was sitting.

Shi Jin: “???” Why are you suddenly looking here? And with that kind of expression.

Taken aback, Zhang Zhuoyuan also turned his head to look at Shi Jin.
For a while, his expression switched between excited and tangled; finally, he said, “There is indeed such a rule, but the one Tarantula kidnapped was this kiddy, not you…”

Shi Jin met his gaze with a glare. You’re the kiddy!

“Shi Jin is my partner, his status is equal to mine.
He can be regarded as the deputy leader of Annihilation—to touch him is to touch me.” Lian Jun spun his teacup on the table, drawing Zhang Zhuoyuan’s attention back to him.
He continued unhurriedly, “When his partner was kidnapped, Annihilation’s leader was furious.
He knew that Tarantula stepped over the line when they did this so he turned to the officials, asking for Tarantula to be stripped of its legal status so it would be easier to clean up.
The officials were troubled; finally, they negotiated for Tarantula to keep its legal status on the condition it was appropriately punished… How about this reason? Is this good enough for you to keep face?”

After hearing this, Zhang Zhuoyuan was completely dumbfounded.
A moment later, he became excited again—this justification was perfect! Not only it helped the officials to keep face, but it also made Tarantula owe the government a favor, which made Tarantula unable to find trouble with the government for this matter!

He nodded hurriedly.
“Yes, of course it’s good enough.
Just, it lays all the blame at your door.
Won’t the others…”

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“It doesn’t matter,” Lian Jun interrupted him, his expression indifferent.
“Annihilation is hated anyway—adding a bit more hatred changes nothing. Rather… isn’t this exactly what you want to see?” He gave the official a cold look.

“Uh…” Zhang Zhuoyuan felt awkward.
Not sure whether Lian Jun was just venting his displeasure or if his words were actually meaningful, he placated, “I know that over the years, you have shouldered a lot for our common goal.
It’s understandable for you to be angry, but our side has always…”

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

“Enough,” Lian Jun interrupted him again.
He set down the teacup, his attitude suddenly icy.
“Talk is cheap—unless proven with action, all those nice words are just hot air.
Director Zhang, it’s probably been too many years of smooth sailing for you, and it made you forget something: in this undertaking to get rid of the underworld, my word has always carried the most weight when deciding on the next course of action.
This time, however, you have acted on your own initiative.
Even if you try to justify this by ‘sticking up for me,’ it still can’t cover up the fact that you’ve begun to disregard my opinions and subconsciously started to think of me as a tool to be used, and I’m very dissatisfied with the signal you’re sending.
I can agree to help you clean up your mess once, but not each and every time.
‘Cooperation’ means ‘mutual effort,’ yet, though it’s unpleasant to hear, I can’t see any effort from your side—the only thing I see is that you seem to intend to kill the donkey when the grinding is done.”

The atmosphere in the study changed abruptly.
Zhang Zhuoyuan’s hands on his knees tightened and his expression tensed.
The sweat on his head turned cold again.

Gua One and Gua Two, who were keeping guard in the corners of the study, suddenly stopped pretending to be statues.
They took out their guns and started playing with them.

Zhang Zhuoyuan was shocked when he saw them appear from the shadows.
Before this moment, he never noticed that there were other people in the room except for Lian Jun and Shi Jin.
His body stiffening, he didn’t dare to raise his head to see what expression was on Lian Jun’s face right now.

Did Lian Jun notice anything? He spoke so bluntly—is he going to break off the relationship with the government? Da-damn, I was too careless. All these years, Lian Jun had been so cooperative that Zhang Zhuoyuan had forgotten that out of all the underworld organization leaders he had encountered, Lian Jun was actually the most dangerous and difficult to deal with.

We have really gotten carried away.
I must do something, we still can’t lose Lian Jun as an ally.

The tea in the teapot was getting cooler, and the study was so quiet one could hear a pin drop.
Lian Jun’s finger lightly tapped the wheelchair’s armrest; Zhang Zhuoyuan felt as if this finger was tapping directly on his heart, making it beat faster with each tap.

The atmosphere became more and more tense.
Shi Jin found that Lian Jun’s progress bar was slowly rising, and sat up straight.
Although logically, he understood that Lian Jun was deliberately exerting pressure on Zhang Zhuoyuan in order to gain absolute decision-making authority in the partnership with the officials, he still couldn’t help but worry.
If Lian Jun overdid it, it might rebound on him instead.

The cooperative relationship between Annihilation and the government couldn’t be broken for now.
Gua One and Gua Two couldn’t lay a finger on Zhang Zhuoyuan or everything would be over.

“Shi Jin,” Lian Jun called out suddenly.

Shi Jin came back to his senses, only to find that he unconsciously clenched his fists so hard he left scratches on the leather covering the armrest of the sofa.
Hurriedly loosening his grip, he asked, “Yes?”

Lian Jun gestured at the teapot.
“Please make us fresh tea,” he said mildly.

The progress bar suddenly stopped going up.

Shi Jin was stunned for a moment, then quickly got up and came over to take the teapot, his eyes furtively darting between Zhang Zhuoyuan and Lian Jun. Strange, why did the progress bar stop rising? Is it because Lian Jun showed a gentle attitude?

He picked up the teapot and turned to leave.
As he did, he noticed that Zhang Zhaoyuan watching him secretly with a thoughtful expression in his eyes.
He frowned and glanced back at Lian Jun, then walked out of the study, a little uneasy.

After Shi Jin left, Lian Jun’s expression turned cold again.

Seeing this, Zhang Zhuoyuan became more certain of the outcome of the gamble he was about to take.
Looking at Lian Jun, he said earnestly, “Jun-shao, it’s true that this time, our side didn’t do a good job.
It’s understandable that this made you doubt our sincerity and whether we really want to cooperate with you, but I hope the trust between us won’t be broken because of this simple misunderstanding.
Of course we’re treating you with sincerity, otherwise, we wouldn’t have allowed your partner to enter the police academy, and by no means we intend to kill the donkey when the grinding is done.
What we want is to achieve an all-win result, and it doesn’t do us any good to antagonize you.
We never intended for this cooperation to be one-sided—as a representative of the government, I’m authorized to exchange benefits for a smooth resolution to this crisis.”

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Lian Jun was noncommittal, looking as if he had lost all trust in the officials and was not interested in anything Zhang Zhuoyuan could say.

The man continued hurriedly, “As far as I know, your partner seems to have ties with Ruixing? Ruixing is preparing to shift its business focus back to China this year.
Perhaps, I can…”

He trailed off, glancing at Lian Jun to check his reaction.

Lian Jun finally looked at him again, narrowing his eyes as if he was thinking.
A moment later, he raised his hand and motioned for Gua One and Gua Two to stand down.
“I’d like to hear more,” he said.

Great, it succeeded! Lian Jun really values his lover very much.

Zhang Zhuoyuan breathed a sigh of relief.
He promised for the government to introduce several policies preferential to enterprises, then hinted, “I’m not in charge of economic affairs—to give you more details, I’ll need to go back and let professionals make a specific plan.
The Tarantula matter is urgent, so why don’t we discuss this first?”

“Director Zhang, if you try to give me a dud check, I will be quite angry,” Lian Jun said with a faint smile.

Zhang Zhuoyuang’s heart trembled at this smile.
He immediately swore that it was absolutely impossible and offered to sign an agreement with him.

The expression on Lian Jun’s face became a little less cold.
“I’ll find someone to draw up the agreement, then I’ll trouble you to sign it.
Now, let’s talk about the Tarantula issue.
Please say how would you like to handle this, Director?”

All right, he relented!

After dealing with Lian Jun’s hot and cold attitude, Zhang Zhuoyuan was so exhausted he felt as if he was about to pass out.
He promptly started talking about the Tarantula matter, for fear that Lian Jun would bring up something else again.

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

By the time Shi Jin came back with the fresh pot of tea, the atmosphere in the study had eased down.
Zhang Zhuoyuan and Lian Jun were calmly discussing what to do about Tarantula, Gua One and Gua Two stood back in the corners, and even Lian Jun’s progress bar had fallen back to the original value.
The previous dangerous undercurrent seemed to be just his illusion.

What’s going on?

Shi Jin peeked at Lian Jun and Zhang Zhuoyuan’s expressions while he put the teapot on the table, but didn’t notice anything special.
Confused, he went back to his sofa, glancing back at them once or twice.

About half an hour later, the discussion was wrapping up, and Zhang Zhuoyuan finally regained his usual easygoing attitude.
“Then let’s do it this way, and thank you,” he said to Lian Jun gratefully.

Lian Jun waved his hand to show that it was nothing.
He allowed tiredness to appear on his face, tactfully hinting that it was time for the guest to leave.

Not seeming to notice it, Zhang Zhuoyuan continued to talk, suddenly changing the topic: “Lian Jun, you’ve said that you wanted to weaken Tarantula so the four big organizations would be equal in strength and mutually restrain each other.
But what then? The subsequent period of peace would also give them time to recover.
As the damages are repaired, their strength will recover and grow.
At that time, wouldn’t the situation be even more unfavorable to Annihilation? From this point of view, destroying Tarantula now doesn’t seem like a bad move.”

Hearing this, Shi Jin frowned—they’d already reached an agreement, so why was Zhang Zhuoyuan suddenly bringing this up again? Was he trying to find fault with Lian Jun?

Lian Jun’s face became expressionless.
He looked at Zhang Zhuoyuan, his eyes dark and hard.

The two men stared at each other.
Zhang Zhuoyuan’s expression remained mild, but his attitude made it clear that he wouldn’t give up until he got the answer.

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The atmosphere in the room sank again.
As Lian Jun remained silent, Zhang Zhuoyuan’s gaze gradually became sharp.

Gua One and Gua Two glanced at each other, both feeling it was a pity.
Although Zhang Zhuoyuan got confused by Jun-shao in the beginning, a fox was a fox, after all—once the pressure relaxed a little bit, he regained his calm and noticed that some things didn’t quite add up.

Yes, there was in fact a big inconsistency in Lian Jun’s analysis of the situation—namely, letting Tarantula survive meant letting Annihilation have one more enemy to fight against later.
From an outsider’s point of view, despite the arguments Lian Jun gave at the beginning, not destroying Tarantula was actually more dangerous for Annihilation than destroying it.

“If we get rid of Tarantula now, it will be a three-against-one fight in the future, and if we don’t, it will be four-against-one.
Lian Jun, I’m not doubting the correctness of your decision, I’m just worried.
You’ve also said that the alliance of the other big organizations is inevitable.
Do you think it’s better to face a four-sided alliance or a three-sided one?” Zhang Zhuoyan asked in an earnest tone of voice, looking as if he was sincerely worried about the future.

“Aren’t you confused about something, Director Zhang?” Lian Jun said finally.
The corners of his mouth hooked in a cold smile as if he saw right through the other man.
“There is no future to speak of—Annihilation was doomed from the moment I decided to join your camp.
And the situation is not as simple as straightforward addition and subtraction.
A weakened Annihilation facing Meridian Gate, Epoch, and Snake Fang who are intact and strengthened by swallowing the resources that used to belong to Tarantula, and Annihilation at full strength, facing Meridian Gate, Epoch, Snake Fang, and Tarantula who are still recovering from internal troubles—it doesn’t take a genius to see which of those two scenarios is more advantageous.
There are also other factors like time and whether things would develop into a war of attrition or a melee… Director Zhang, don’t test me again, my patience is limited.
If this is your attempt at forcing me to declare my position, I can only say that you’ve used the wrong method.”

Zhang Zhuoyuan’s expression stiffened, and he was rendered speechless again.

“Also, don’t say that you don’t know that the leaders of Meridian Gate, Epoch, and Snake Fang have come to G Province.
If Annihilation fights Tarantula now, then not only will we have to do everything possible to preserve our strength against the desperate attacks of Tarantula who’s fighting for survival, but also guard against the other three organizations’ who will definitely try to strike at us in the darkness.
Reducing the number of future opponents will be pointless if Annihilation is exhausted to death in the process.”

Lian Jun’s attitude turned unfriendly once more.
“Do you think it’s so easy to achieve a balance between those four organizations? Do you think the underworld will become calm and they will be able to peacefully develop and grow in strength? Step by step, you’re pushing Annihilation to become the enemy of the whole underworld.
Now you’ve even ‘gotten justice’ for us with such great fanfare—once the Tarantula matter ends, what will the other organizations do, can’t you guess? At that time, will I have any other choice than to fight with them? Since I know this will happen sooner or later, is it wrong for me to want to save my strength and try to get some buffer time? Director Zhang, it’s so obvious what will happen in the future that do you really need me to break it down for you? You’re either pretending to be a fool or treat me as a fool!”

Zhang Zhuoyuan’s expression became stiffer—he didn’t expect Lian Jun to be aware of the situation to this degree.
“I didn’t mean that, Lian Jun,” he said, mouth dry.
“I’m just worried that if we let go of Tarantula, things will be more difficult for Annihilation since you’ll have to face more opponents.”

“Difficult? No, that’s when things will get simple.” Lian Jun’s expression suddenly turned indifferent as if he couldn’t be bothered to continue this conversation any longer.
“Director Zhang, I have never held out hope that Annihilation can survive this one-against-four fight… Didn’t you want to know my position? I’ll tell it to you right now: pray that the other four organizations form an alliance as soon as possible so my hands won’t have to be tied anymore and Annihilation will be able to fight with all its strength and perish together with our foes.”

“Perish—” His eyes snapping wide open, Zhang Zhuoyuan stared at Lian Jun in disbelief.

Just as shocked, Shi Jin also looked at his lover.

Resting his chin on his hand, Lian Jun said indifferently, “Only by burning out its life can Annihilation create a firestorm large enough that the underworld will burn clean.
Once the big organizations that can threaten the government are gone, it will be easy to handle the remaining small fishes.
This is my sincerity and my determination, Director.
I have already found my resolve, but you still seem to hesitate.”

Zhang Zhuoyuan was shaken to his core.
“You…” he stammered out.

Lian Jun suddenly turned his head, calling out, “Shi Jin.”

“Yes?” Shi Jin responded immediately.

“I’m tired.
Take me back to my room, I want to rest.” Lian Jun lowered his head and put a hand on his forehead, clearly showing that he didn’t want to continue talking.

Shi Jin hurried over to take the handles of the wheelchair and pushed him out of the study.

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

The conversation lasted for too long, making Lian Jun miss his nap time again.
Eyebrows knitted, Shi Jin helped him lie down, then sat on the edge of the bed to tuck him in.

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“Scared?” Lian Jun held the hand smoothing the covers and kissed it.

Shi Jin nodded, not trying to hide it.
I knew that you’re going to let Annihilation be destroyed together with the rest, but when I heard you say it as if you were preparing to die, it still scared me… You’re not really planning to die, are you?”

“Of course not, I just said it in such a way to bluff Zhang Zhuoyuan.” Lian Jun sat up and touched Shi Jin’s hair, then pulled him into a hug, soothingly stroking his back.
“I have you, how could I be willing to die?”

Shi Jin hugged him back, as hard as he could.

Zhang Zhuoyuan didn’t leave immediately but stayed in the study for a while.
He was really shocked by what Lian Jun said.
Although Lian Jun had expressed this intention before, he never took it seriously because Annihilation’s transformation to a completely legitimate business was making steady progress—he thought that Lian Jun, like other wily organization leaders, was just saying pleasant-to-hear words to get more benefits.

But after today’s conversation, he can no longer deceive himself.
Lian Jun was serious—he’d already written the ending of the story of Annihilation and other underworld organizations and was now quietly waiting for the beginning of the final chapter.

In the face of the other party’s determination, all his provocations were despicable and ridiculous.

After sitting in a daze for a long time, he suddenly took out his mobile phone and began to make calls, one right after another.
Some were short, some were long, some ended up being arguments, and some were him listening and repeatedly answering “Yes.”

When Lian Jun woke up and returned to the study, Zhang Zhuoyuan’s phone had already run out of battery.
As if he was a whole different person, his attitude was no longer solemn and wary but became mild and amiable.
Seeing Lian Jun, he hurriedly stood up and stepped forward to meet him, then bowed his head and apologized earnestly.

“This time, we acted arbitrarily and as a result, caused a lot of trouble for Annihilation.
I’m very sorry, this kind of thing will never happen again.
In addition, I’ve just discussed things over with my superiors—from now on, any decisions concerning dealing with the big underworld organizations will be consulted with you.”

Lian Jun wasn’t mollified, however, and still looked at him coldly and with distrust.

Zhang Zhuoyuan smiled wryly.
“I will prove the sincerity of my apology with actions.” After that, he politely said goodbye, nodded to Shi Jin and the Guas and left.

The study door closed behind him.

Shi Jin immediately looked at Lian Jun.
“So… it’s done, right?”

“It’s a great success!” No longer playing the role of a silent and grim-faced guard, Gua Two pounced at Shi Jin and threw an arm around his shoulders, grinning so wide that his mouth had to hurt.
“Jun-shao played Zhang Zhuoyuan like a fiddle.
He saved Tarantula, obtained benefits, and gained a say in the government’s decisions.
Three birds killed with one stone, beautiful!”

Throwing Gua Two a warning glance, Lian Jun motioned for him to release Shi Jin, then took Shi Jin’s hand.
A hint of a smile softening the lines of his face, he said, “Yes, it’s done.
We can contact Aunt Lu and let her know the plan can move to the next step.”

At last, the curtain rose on the prelude to the final war.

Translator: Eques
Editor: –


Guess who’s going to appear in the next chapter~ (≖ᴗ≖)

(Actually in chapter 110 but chapter 109 makes it pretty obvious, so…)

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