When Shi Jin opened his eyes, he found himself lying on a soft and spacious wooden bed, wearing pure cotton pajamas, and holding a cucumber pillow in his arms.
Where was he? It didn't look like a hospital, and it definitely wasn't hell.
He blinked in confusion and rubbed his forehead.
Wasn't he hit by a truck while chasing a thief? With the speed of that truck, his chances of survival were almost zero. But what was going on now?
"It's because you've been reborn," a crisp mechanical voice suddenly sounded in his mind.
Shi Jin's body trembled as he sat up, looking around warily. "Who's talking?"
"It's me, your golden finger and life-saving talisman. You can call me Xiao Si*."
*T/N: It means Xiao Si. Xiao also sounds like the word for 'laugh', but not exactly.
"Laugh to death?"
"...My Mandarin pronunciation is very standard, thank you."
With a searching gaze, Shi Jin finally confirmed that the voice he heard was indeed directly in his own mind. He tentatively raised his hand and knocked on his own head.
"Don't knock, you'll break it if you do it again," the voice said.
Shi Jin: "..."
With things having come to this point, Shi Jin finally realized that he was alive again, but definitely not in his own body. His own body was a handsome guy with eight-pack abs and long legs, but now this body was chubby and round, with four dimples on the back of its hand. The pajamas were stretched out from his breathing, and the pants were tightly stretched over his legs when he bent them.
...He had never been so "dignified" in his life.
He might as well just die.
Xiao Si clearly saw his thoughts and asked a soul-searching question: "Is life more important than weight?"
Shi Jin lay back on the bed, closed his eyes, and looked peaceful.
"...Weight can be lost, but life cannot be regained. And once you're dead, you can never taste delicious food or feel the smooth touch of mahjong tiles again."
As these words echoed in his mind, Shi Jin's breathing hitched. He remembered the silky sensation of the tiles slipping through his fingers and abruptly sat up, adjusting his clothes.
"Tell me, what's going on now?"
Silence filled the room. Just as Shi Jin began to doubt if it was all just a hallucination before his death, his brain suddenly throbbed with pain, flooding him with a jumble of memories and images.
Half an hour later, he lay back down on the bed, peacefully closing his eyes.
"Hey, don't do this! As a public servant, where is your justice and passion?" Xiao Si protested.
Shi Jin snored.
"Boohoo, police uncle, you can't do this, boohoo..." Xiao Si continued to cry.
Shi Jin endured.
"Sob sob sob, Sob sob sob... Pong! I won! Fishing the moon from the bottom of the sea! Blossoming upon a gang!*"
*T/N: Phrases used in mahjong
Shi Jin couldn't take it anymore and lifted the covers, getting out of bed to straighten his clothes. He looked utterly dejected as he asked, "So, the novel I read before I died was your original form? You dragged me into the world of the book after I died?"
Xiao Si stopped crying and obediently replied, "Mm."
"Is this really the world inside the book?"
Xiao Si remained silent.
"Can I still leave from here?"
"If you leave, you also won't be able to live," Xiao Si replied.
This time, it was Shi Jin's turn to fall silent. After a long while, he continued to ask, "Why me?"
"Because..." Xiao Si hesitated this time, pausing for two seconds before saying in a clear voice, "If you have difficulties, find the police uncle!"
You make a lot of sense.
Without a word, Shi Jin walked into the bathroom connected to the bedroom and stood in front of the mirror.
In the reflection was a face that was both familiar and unfamiliar. It was familiar because he recognized the features, but unfamiliar because the body was completely different. This body was the exact same as the one he had when he was young, even down to the small mole on his nose, but it had been enlarged several times.
Thankfully, it was still his own appearance, and the sense of dissonance was much less. Shi Jin let out a long sigh and resignedly washed his face and brushed his teeth.
According to the memories provided by Xiao Si, he was now also called Shi Jin, almost eighteen years old, and the protagonist of a revenge novel labeled as a realistic and satisfying read. The novel was called "Death Progress Bar," but in fact the plot was frustrating and depressing, and it even killed off the original protagonist.
The protagonist Shi Jin had a father who was a stud horse and five half-brothers. When the stud horse father was alive, Shi Jin was the little prince of the family and was adored by his five brothers.
However, after the stud horse father died, Shi Jin became a despised bug that everyone in the family could step on. He was tortured to death by his five brothers who had torn off their friendly masks.
But the moment he was reborn was exactly when the stud horse father had just passed away, which was also where the novel had left off.
After taking care of himself, Shi Jin did not leave his room. Instead, he sat back on his bed and continued his conversation with Xiao Si in his mind.
"What do you need me to do?"
There's no such thing as a free lunch. Xiao Si must have a request for him if it went through all the trouble of bringing him back to life.
In his mind, Xiao Si displayed two progress bars and said, "These are death progress bars. The one with a total of 999 is yours, and it has already hit 998. Once it reaches the end, your body will face death. Even I cannot save you. I am bound to you, and I will disappear with you. I need you to clear it and keep me alive."
Being a bit OCD, at first, the protagonist didn't care about the connection between the progress bar and his life. Instead, he made a face like he had eaten shit and asked, "Can't we just round it up to 1000?"
Xiao Si's serious tone suddenly changed, and he pinched his voice, saying, "You damn ghost! The 1000 progress bar doesn't belong to you. It's my baby's bar."
Shi Jin shuddered and said, "Let's talking about serious matters, don't joke around!"
"...Your progress bar down there is at 1000. I need you to find the owner of that progress bar and help them clear it, while ensuring your own safety and saving their life." Xiao Si's tone became serious again, with a hint of caution and pleading. He asked, "Will you help me? I can offer you a reward and guarantee your safety."
With things having come this far, what else could Shi Jin say? He had to suppress his OCD and nodded heavily.
He had narrowly escaped death, and he knew that his life could still end at any moment. He now had a little voice in his head that called itself a "golden finger" and he needed to find someone who had the other progress bar.
But for now, he was just happy to be alive and able to play more mahjong.
In the end, he had come out on top.
Xiao Si cheered, "Yay! I knew our family's Jin Jin was the best!"
Because of his nickname, Jin Jin, people often mistook him for a girl.
"Shut up," he told Xiao Si.
After exchanging information, Shi Jin sorted through his memories and finally stepped out of the room.
The body he inhabited belonged to Shi Xingrui, a successful businessman who had built a massive commercial empire from scratch. He had immigrated overseas with Shi Jin and shifted his focus to him after Shi Jin was born. His funeral had just ended yesterday, and today his lawyer would come to announce the will.
The will announcement was done privately, with only one person present to hear it, and all five of his brothers were absent. This was the intention of Shi Xingrui, as he had no plans to give a single dollar to his other five sons.
Despite being his sons, Shi Xingrui's attitude towards his children was drastically different. He favored his youngest son, Shi Jin, the most, and only revealed the existence of Shi Jin to the outside world.
The other five lived with their mother and only came to reunite on holidays. Even though the outside world had heard of these five talented and handsome young men, they had no idea of their relationship with Shi Xingrui.
"They are all his sons, how could Shi Xingrui be so biased?" As Shi Jin flipped through the memories of the original owner and the information provided by Xiao Si, he couldn't make sense of Shi Xingrui's behavior.
"Maybe it's because you're the best-looking one?" Xiao Si flattered unashamedly.
Shi Jin: "..." He glanced at his own belly and legs, deciding to stop this topic and not torture himself.
As the two of them chatted and reminisced, Shi Xingrui's lawyer had already arrived. After a brief greeting, he began to read out Shi Xingrui's long list of inheritance.
Shi Jin listened with one ear and out the other, analyzing the death progress bar that concerned his own life with Xiao Si in his mind.
"How do we clear this bar?" Shi Jin asked.
"If there are fewer factors that cause death, the progress bar will naturally decrease," Xiao Si replied.
Shi Jin pondered over this. In the plot of the novel, the original owner was tortured to death by his five brothers. This means that the threat of death for the original owner came entirely from his five brothers.
And the reason why the five brothers treated the original owner so poorly... his gaze shifted to the inheritance list in the lawyer's hand, and he cursed Shi Xingrui as a foolish teammate in his heart.
Children who are neglected or even ignored by their father, how could they possibly like their favored younger brother? And the situation in the Shi family is even more complicated, involving money and interests.
Shi Xingrui's practice of leaving all the inheritance to his youngest son without the knowledge of his five elder sons is simply wanting them to develop grudges against Shi Jin, and wanting him to die even faster!
"...Maria Manor, that's all the real estate. In addition, Mr. Shi instructed that you will inherit all of Ruihang's shares. However, considering that you have not yet completed your university studies, the company will be temporarily managed by Vice Chairman Xu Tianhua until you are able to take on the responsibility, and you can supervise from the sidelines. That's the entire content of the will. If you have no objections, please sign here."
The lawyer finally finished reading the list of assets and pushed several documents in front of Shi Jin.
Shi Jin snapped out of his thoughts and glanced at the progress bar in his mind, which had already reached 998. He decisively pushed the documents back and firmly said, "I don't want these things."
If he took them, the death progress bar would be filled up so fully it would start burping.
The lawyer rubbed his ear doubtfully and wondered if he had misheard something.
"If my brothers don't get these things, I don't want it either." Shi Jin stood up, with a childish stubbornness on his face, his expression tense as if he was holding back sadness. "Dad was wrong to do things like this. I don't want these things. You can take them and divide them into five parts to give to my brothers."
The lawyer was now truly confused and said, "But Master Shi, your brothers already have their own careers. Whether they take the inheritance or not, it doesn't make a difference to them. And you are still underage, so..."
"How can it be the same? The difference is huge!" Suddenly, Shi Jin's acting skills exploded as he shouted, "Enough!"
The lawyer was silenced by his outburst and comically stared at him with wide eyes.
"I can work hard and achieve success just like my older brothers," said Shi Jin, with a sad tone and turned away slightly. "Dad always says that my brothers make him proud, and I want to make him and my brothers proud of me too... You can go now, I'm tired."
After speaking, Shi Jin turned around and walked back to his room on the second floor. With a loud bang, he closed the door and let down all his pretenses. He nervously clutched his chest and asked, "Xiao Si, how did I do just now?"
"Clap, clap, clap, clap," Xiao Si applauded affirmatively.
"Thank you, thank you," Shi Jin blushed and thanked him, rubbing his hands expectantly. "I refused the inheritance, so my progress bar should have gone down a bit, right?"
Xiao Si also rubbed his hands expectantly. "Definitely, definitely."
The two of them looked at the progress bar together. Shi Jin was shocked and turned pale. "What's going on? Why is the death progress bar going higher instead of lower?"
It went from 998 to 998.5!
Xiao Si screamed, "I don't know!"