Death Progress Bar

Death Progress Bar

Chapter 24 - Three in One

"But he just became an adult a few days ago!" Anger flared in Xiang Aoting's voice at Lian Jun's attitude. "A few months ago, he was just a chubby young master who would get tired after running a few laps! Sending him on a mission is like sending him to his death! Do you think he's suitable for the job? Or do you think it's worth sacrificing him as a cannon fodder for your own gain?"

As soon as Xiang Aoting finished speaking, the expressions of Number Two and Number Nine turned ugly, and their gazes towards him became hostile.

Lian Jun never used the lives of his subordinates to gain benefits. Xiang Aoting's words were an insult to Lian Jun and to their "Annihilation"! 

As the situation escalated, it became clear to Lian Jun that there was no reasoning with Xiang Aoting in his current state. So he turned to Shi Jin and signaled, "Go ahead."

"You!" Xiang Aoting stood up straight, seething with anger and reaching for his weapon.

Shi Jin understood Lian Jun's intention and felt it was time for Xiang Aoting to remember who he was dealing with. With a quick and agile leap, he kicked the table and lunged towards Xiang Aoting's hand, while grabbing a pen from Lian Jun's desk and using it as a makeshift dagger to aim for Xiang Aoting's eyes.

Xiang Aoting's expression changed and he quickly dodged the attack, unable to draw his weapon in time.

Taking advantage of the moment, Shi Jin landed on the ground and threw the pen aside, assuming a standard fighting stance with fists clenched as he charged towards Xiang Aoting. 

"Xiao Jin, you—" Xiang Aoting couldn't believe it, both surprised and doubtful.

But Shi Jin didn't hold back in his attack, interrupting him: "There's no use in talking. Put down your weapon and let's fight."

Xiang Aoting furrowed his brow, quickly controlling his emotions. He only dodged and didn't attack, intending to find an opening to subdue him before having a proper conversation. 

However, after a few moves, he discovered that Shi Jin's attacks were precise and powerful, with a clear method. He didn't seem like a beginner at all, causing Xiang Aoting to become even more suspicious and serious. 

He gradually began to counterattack.

Thud! Thud! Thud! Thud!

The two of them exchanged blows, the sound of fists and feet colliding filling the study.

Shi Jin's attacks were swift and fierce, while Xiang Aoting's counterattacks were steady and cunning. The two of them moved quickly, exchanging dozens of moves in just a short amount of time. 

As the fight continued, Number Two's expression gradually became more and more peculiar, as if he couldn't believe what he was seeing. 

He muttered to himself, "What's going on? Did these two brothers learn martial arts from the same master? Their moves are so similar. And how can Xiang Aoting, who is a pilot, be so skilled in combat? He's basically fighting with Shi Jin using only one hand."

"It is one hand," Number Nine observed carefully, even taking out his phone to secretly record the fight. "Both of them learned military-style martial arts, so it's normal for their moves to be similar. But Xiang Aoting focuses more on practical application, while Shi Jin has had less practice and has become somewhat rigid."

Number Two looked at him speechlessly, wondering what he was doing with his phone. "What are you doing?" he asked.

"Taking notes," Number Nine replied with a childish face and a serious tone. "Xiang Aoting is really strong, and even Number One probably can't beat him." 

Upon hearing this, Number Two was absolutely furious - he had never seen anyone praise the 'enemy' like this before. But despite his anger, he couldn't come up with a rebuttal. 

Number One's greatest strengths were his marksmanship and sneak attacks, and he might not be able to beat Xiang Aoting in hand-to-hand combat.

Shi Jin quickly noticed Xiang Aoting holding back, and with a flicker in his eyes, he used a feinting motion to make Xiang Aoting kick, then took advantage of the opportunity to crouch down and grab Xiang Aoting's leg from the side, like a monkey stealing a peach.

"Cough cough cough! What is he doing? What is Xiao Jin Jin doing? He can't win, so he's just acting like a hooligan!" Number Two immediately started to complain, only to receive disapproving glares from Lian Jun and Number Nine.

Number Two: "......" 

To Xiang Aoting's surprise, Shi Jin used such shameless tactics. Xiang Aoting froze for a moment before dodging to the side, but Shi Jin suddenly changed from a claw to a palm and moved slightly, hitting Xiang Aoting's leg where the nerves were exposed while he was dodging. At the same time, Shi Jin leaned over and forcefully collided with him.


Xiang Aoting fell to the ground unsteadily, and Shi Jin successfully pinned him down. Wiping the sweat from his forehead, he looked down at Xiang Aoting triumphantly and said, "Fourth Brother, I won." 

Xiang Aoting looked at the face of the energetic and spirited man in front of him, gasping for breath without speaking. His eyes were complex, and it took a while before he reached out and pressed his shoulder, using a bit of skill to separate from him and look towards Lian Jun. 

The anger had disappeared from his face, but he still disapproved and said, "Lian Jun, going on a mission requires more than just combat skills. I still disagree with letting Xiao Jin participate in this mission. I will submit a report to request a personnel change."

Lian Jun's response was also very straightforward, saying, "You can't change it. We only have a cooperative relationship. You have no right to interfere with who I send. And you are not the real participant in this mission. If I say I am not satisfied, you have to leave now." 

So this is actually not a two-way choice, and Xiang Aoting is completely passive in Nightfall. He was able to go so far today because Lian Jun gave him some face.

"Don't underestimate Shi Jin," Lian Jun threatened, then spoke with reason, "Shi Jin is far better than you think, Xiang Aoting. You older brothers all have a common problem, which is to subjectively judge what kind of person Shi Jin is, but you are all wrong. Shi Jin, take your brother to the shooting range. You should practice your marksmanship today."

Shi Jin was flattered and showed a sycophantic smile to Lian Jun. He got up from the ground, patted Xiang Aoting's shoulder, and said, "Let's go, let's compare our marksmanship now." 

As Aoting listened to Lian Jun's words, he was a bit stunned. Turning his head to look at Shi Jin, who was smiling brightly and confidently, he realized that he had never seen him smile like this before. His lips moved, but he didn't say anything. 

Following Shi Jin as he walked outside, Xiang Aoting realized that Lian Jun was right. He didn't have a choice. The only thing he could do now was to fight to stay.

The two of them arrived at the shooting range, and Shi Jin intentionally wanted Xiang Aoting to change his opinion of him. So he took Xiang Aoting to the most difficult simulation area and said, "You can choose any gun you want. Our battlefield is this simulation area. There are a total of fifteen robbers and five hostages. Do you want to compete?"

The simulated area was just renovated and upgraded, making it perfect for practice. Xiang Aoting took a quick look around and looked at Shi Jin, accepting his challenge: "Let's compete." 

He wanted to see what his younger brother had grown into during the time he was away.

"Then let's begin," Shi Jin said eagerly, as he went to change his equipment.

Shi Jin was skilled in long-range attacks and marksmanship, with a quick mind and an exaggerated sense of danger. After the two of them rescued all the hostages in the simulation area and met up in the evaluation room outside, the scoring system had already given its evaluation. Although Shi Jin had rescued one less hostage than Xiang Aoting, he had taken down three more robbers than Xiang Aoting, and his marksmanship accuracy was even higher.

"There's also a tactical training system here, which is newly installed. Do you want to try it out?" Shi Jin took off his safety helmet, still a little out of breath, and challenged Xiang Aoting once again. 

At this point, Xiang Aoting had completely changed his view of Shi Jin. He looked at him deeply, his thin lips tightly pursed, his serious face looking even more fierce as he nodded and said, "Try."

Tactical exercises are the best way to see a person's overall combat skills. The two of them spent an afternoon in the training room, practicing until Xiang Aoting was the one who refused to let Shi Jin go. He repeatedly changed the scenarios, trying to figure out Shi Jin's limits.

Shi Jin was exhausted, and by the end, he didn't even want to talk to Xiang Aoting anymore - this guy was a complete lunatic! A training maniac! Too harsh!

Xiang Aoting didn't need him to talk, and remained silent after they left. He seemed to be lost in thought, occasionally glancing at Shi Jin with a gaze like a searchlight, making people feel uneasy. 

When Shi Jin suspected that Xiang Aoting was planning to cut open his body to examine his internal structure, he quickly stuffed Xiang Aoting into the Nightfall's cafeteria and ran to the small restaurant to have dinner with Lian Jun.

"How's the situation?" After dinner, Lian Jun asked out of nowhere.

Shi Jin was wiping his mouth when he heard the question. He paused for a moment, recalled his experience in the afternoon, and replied, "It's okay. Xiang Aoting is very powerful and has a lot of combat experience. I learned a lot from him."

"Hmm," Lian Jun nodded and asked, "So you're not switching trainers?"

He was asking if Shi Jin wanted to change his training personnel. 

After some consideration, Shi Jin shook his head and said, "No need to change. Let him stay. He'll only be training me for a while, and he won't be staying here permanently anyway." 

Besides, it was convenient for Xiang Aoting to come, as he could gather information about the five brothers' mothers' families, which was not well described in the original plot. He needed to collect clues.

Over at the cafeteria, a conversation was also taking place.

Xiang Aoting took the initiative to sit across from Number Two and asked, "How long has Shi Jin been training with you guys?"

Number Two glanced at him and didn't really want to talk to him, so he asked back, "How long could he have trained? How long has it been since he got out of your sight?"

Xiang Aoting sensed his hostility and furrowed his brows slightly, then asked again, "Doesn't he eat with you guys?"

This time, Number Two didn't answer directly. He threw down his chopsticks and left. 

Watching him leave, Xiang Aoting thought back on everything he had seen and heard in Nightfall, lost in thought.

The next day, after eating breakfast, Shi Jin went to the training room as usual. This time, instead of Number One or Number Two, he found Xiang Aoting, dressed in military green training clothes, waiting for him.

"We're going to test your limits today," Xiang Aoting seemed to have accepted the fact that he was now responsible for training Shi Jin. 

Holding a record board with a list of items, he pointed to the running track in the training room and said, "Let's warm up first. Yesterday we only tested combat and marksmanship, today we'll test the basics, starting with endurance."

Seeing his serious expression, Shi Jin suddenly had a bad feeling and asked, "How many laps?" 

Looking at him, Xiang Aoting's thin lips slightly parted as he spoke firmly, "Run until you can't run anymore."

Oh my god...

Brother, aren't you being too harsh? 

"If you don't want to run, then quit the mission. I won't send a lazy rookie to their death in the hands of the enemy," Xiang Aoting's tone was cold.

His words sounded just like their old instructor back in police academy.

Shi Jin sighed quietly and obediently went to warm up.

Running, push-ups, sit-ups, single bar, double bar... Shi Jin was reminded of the fear he felt when he first entered the police academy and was dominated by physical training. His whole body was tense to the extreme, too tired to even speak, let alone try to gather information from Xiang Aoting.

Xiang Aoting's attitude was also unpredictable. Every time Shi Jin completed a training exercise, his expression would strangely darken for a while. 

After a whole day of training, Shi Jin felt like he had almost lost half of his life. His clothes were soaked with sweat time and time again, and in the end, he was practically dragged out of the training room by Xiang Aoting.

"Your endurance is okay, but your overall physical fitness is not up to standard. Your muscles are not well-defined and too soft," Xiang Aoting cruelly evaluated, throwing Shi Jin directly into the medical room and having the doctor give him an IV.

Shi Jin knew that this body was not good, and physical fitness was a big problem, but he still deliberately retorted, "Yes, your muscles are hard, Fourth Brother. Are you seeking revenge for personal reasons? Can't we gradually progress instead of starting with such extreme training?"

Xiang Aoting replied, "No, the mission could start at any time. You don't have time to gradually progress."

Shi Jin slumped in his chair, unable to say a word.

Xiang Aoting frowned at the sight and was silent for a few seconds before finally praising, "Your foundation is good, and you work hard." 

"Thank you, the world is a dangerous place, and if I don't work hard, I won't survive," said Shi Jin, half-jokingly.

Xiang Aoting sat down next to him, looked at him for a moment, and suddenly asked, "Why?"

What "why"? Why do these older brothers always like to ask "why"? It's fine to ask, but can't they ask in more detail? He's not a worm in their stomachs, he can't read their mind.

Shi Jin was helpless and asked, "What do you mean by 'why'?"

"Why did you choose to stay here." Xiang Aoting looked at his face, which no longer resembled his past self, and asked, "You could have chosen a more stable and comfortable life, so why did you choose to stay here?"

"Don't you know?" Shi Jin raised his eyebrows and asked back.

Xiang Aoting shook his head honestly. He really didn't know. For the past few years, he had spent most of his time in the military, and had very little contact with his family. 

As Shi Jin looked at his completely genuine expression, a slightly strange idea suddenly popped into his mind - could this Fourth Brother... really be completely oblivious to the situation? 

All the brotherly conflicts and calculations for personal gain seemed to be completely outside of his awareness. Every word and action he made was straightforward, as if he had nothing to hide.

"Don't you hate me?" Shi Jin sat up and looked into his eyes, asking persistently.

There was a hint of confusion in Xiang Aoting's eyes, as well as a discomfort from feeling exposed. He even felt a bit of self-blame and guilt for having such thoughts. 

However, his face remained serious as he replied, "Hate you? I don't like your past attitude towards life. But now, you're working hard and living healthily. Other than working for Lian Jun and being a rebellious student who doesn't want to go home and continue studying, everything else is pretty good." 

Listening to this answer and looking at this expression, is this really a bad brother?

Shi Jin tentatively held onto Xiang Aoting's hand.

Xiang Aoting's body stiffened, but he didn't pull away. He only furrowed his brows and asked, "What's wrong?"

"Nothing." Shi Jin didn't know what expression to make anymore. He slumped on the bed and dryly said, "I just suddenly wanted to touch you... Fourth Brother, let's get along well, okay?"

"It's useless. I won't go easy on you," Xiang Aoting coldly withdrew his hand and spoke righteously, "Since you've made your choice, you have to stick with it. The sweat you're putting in now is the vitality you need for your mission. Xiao Jin, your attitude still isn't serious enough."

Shi Jin: "..."

Xiao Si weakly spoke up, "Jin Jin, the progress bar has dropped to 840." 

Shi Jin let out a low sigh, feeling no comfort at all. Dealing with Fourth Brother seemed to be quite a headache. 

The devilish training once started, could not be stopped. Every day, Shi Jin would enter the training room standing up, and be dragged out by Xiang Aoting while lying down, looking extremely miserable. 

This continued for a week before his body finally adapted to the high-intensity training. However, his plan to gather information from Xiang Aoting remained at a standstill. Xiang Aoting was like a stubborn stone, only knowing about training and refusing to talk about anything else. 

After another day of training, Shi Jin was finally able to walk out on his own. As they said their goodbyes at the door and took a few steps away, Xiang Aoting suddenly called out to him. 

"What's wrong?" Shi Jin asked, puzzled. 

After hesitating for a moment, Xiang Aoting asked, "Where do you eat every day?"

Shi Jin was taken aback and replied, "On the sixth floor, with Young Master Jun."

Xiang Aoting suddenly looked unhappy and asked in a strange tone, "Xiao Jin, are you... are you..."

"Am I what?" Shi Jin became more confused and puzzled.

"...never mind." Xiang Aoting suddenly closed his mouth and said stiffly, "We can move on to the next stage of the training plan. Rest well today and come early tomorrow." 

With that, he turned and left.

Shi Jin was bewildered and scratched his head, "What kind of riddle is this?" 

The training lasted for half a month. During this time, Shi Weichong called twice to arrange a meeting with Shi Jin and Xiang Aoting. It was obvious that he knew Xiang Aoting had arrived at Nightfall. 

Shi Jin actually wanted to go out and strengthen his relationship with Shi Weichong, but the mission was more important, so he had to decline politely.

During another heavy snowfall, Xiang Aoting suddenly left Nightfall for a few days. When he returned, he brought news that the mission was about to begin, and Shi Jin finally learned the specific details. 

"This time, our mission is to gather information," Xiang Aoting projected an encrypted file and explained to Shi Jin in detail. 

"The person in the picture is Liu Yuan, also known as Yuan Ma-zi. He is involved in human trafficking and is your main target this time. He used to be our informant, but later betrayed us. Now we suspect that he has convinced some military personnel to support him from within. All of our previous undercover agents and scouts were exposed, so this time we have to seek outside help."

Human trafficking? And colluding with insiders?

Shi Jin's face showed a disgusted expression. It's not surprising, as anyone who has worked in law enforcement hates human traffickers more than murderers. 

"Yuan Ma-zi belongs to an illegal violent organization called 'Werewolf'. The main members of this organization usually hide overseas and engage in various illegal activities, including human trafficking. Recently, we received information that they have secretly returned to the country in batches, seemingly for some big business. This is our chance."

Shi Jin probably understood his meaning and asked, "Does the government want to know who is behind Werewolf and Liu Yuan?" 

"Exactly," nodded Xiang Aoting, very satisfied with his thinking and reaction speed. He continued, "This mission is top secret. In order to prevent the plan from being leaked again, all personnel involved in the mission were transferred from other places. You are the only external aid and have the heaviest task. We need you to pretend to be a person abducted by Yuan Ma-zi, infiltrate the Werewolf group, and collect as much information as possible."

Shi Jin frowned and asked, "How do I disguise myself? Also, aren't the main victims of human trafficking children and women? Would Yuan Ma-zi abduct someone like me?"

After a moment of silence, Xiang Aoting replied, "Yes, contrary to popular belief, Yuan Ma-zi's favorite target group for abduction is young men, aged seventeen or eighteen, with handsome looks and a high tolerance for hardship, who come from rural areas to work in the city." 

As Shi Jin listened, his expression gradually disappeared. He looked at Xiang Aoting and said, "Don't tell me that Yuan Ma-zi is..."

"He's involved in human trafficking and also works as a pimp. Due to his sexual preferences, he prefers to abduct young men. The men he abducts are usually secretly trained by him for a period of time. After he gets bored of them, he sends them to T country, where they are sold to various parts of the world."

"..." Why does his mission always involve selling his body.

Xiang Aoting also felt that this mission was difficult to speak of. He patted Shi Jin's shoulder and comforted him, "Don't be afraid. There is reliable evidence that Yuan Ma-zi can no longer be seen as human, and the Werewolf group is operating domestically this time, so they won't be as reckless as they are abroad. We will do our best to ensure your safety." 

Shi Jin didn't feel comforted and asked without hope, "How can you guarantee my safety?"

Withdrawing his hand, Xiang Aoting said, "I also applied to participate in this mission and it has been approved. I will be your direct contact person. If there is any movement on your end, I will go to save you, so you don't have to be afraid."

Shi Jin was surprised. He didn't expect Xiang Aoting to also participate in this mission. His mood suddenly became complicated. Xiang Aoting was a pilot and his department had nothing to do with the department responsible for this mission. It must have taken a lot of effort for him to be able to participate.

"Fourth Brother, you don't have to do this."

"I want to." Xiang Aoting turned off the projection and said seriously, "You are my younger brother. It's the older brother's duty to protect the younger brother." 

Shi Jin sighed in his mind, "I'm done for. I feel like he's using reverse psychology on me. He's such an honest and reliable good brother." 

Xiao Si thought carefully but couldn't think of anything bad about Xiang Aoting, so it remained silent. 

Two more days passed like this, and the specific date for the mission was set - Yuan Ma-zi appeared in a small town in H province, apparently preparing to take a train inland. This was a good opportunity to get close to him. 

Shi Jin received a departure call from Xiang Aoting while eating, and after hanging up, he looked at Lian Jun, wanting to explain the situation, but Lian Jun spoke first. 

"Be safe," Lian Jun said, putting down his chopsticks. 

Shi Jin's words got stuck in his throat, and he nodded instead, turning around to say, "Make sure you eat well while I'm gone." 

"Stop being so long-winded," said Lian Jun as he slid his wheelchair out from behind the table. He took out a small pendant and placed it in Shi Jin's hand, saying, "I heard you returned the cucumber pillow to Rong Zhouzhong. Here, take this and remember to carry it with you."

Shi Jin lowered his head and saw that Lian Jun had given him a cartoon pendant in the shape of a chicken leg. He couldn't help but laugh and shook the little chicken leg, saying, "Young Master, I don't like eating chicken legs."

Lian Jun glanced at him and waved his hand, saying, "Go on, don't waste any more time."

"Okay, I'm going." Shi Jin put away the little chicken leg and suddenly hugged Lian Jun. 

Then he quickly let go, backing away while waving at Lian Jun and saying with a smile, "When I come back after completing the mission, I want to eat a whole roasted lamb!" 

As Lian Jun's tense body slowly relaxed, he remained silent. Only when Shi Jin's figure was no longer visible did he coldly reply, "Don't even think about it. I can't eat it, and you can't either."


In the neighboring province of S, Shi Jin wore an outdated winter outfit and a tacky black knit hat, carrying a worn-out old cell phone and squeezing onto the green train with a luggage bag.

His lips were purple from the cold, and he kept his head down with a shrinking gaze. His body language was restrained, clearly indicating that it was his first time traveling far by train.

Such people were common, so no one paid much attention to him. He found his seat smoothly and tried to show some goodwill towards his seatmate, but unfortunately, the middle-aged man was a powerful figure who responded to his smile with a disdainful glare. He became even more restrained, tilting his body slightly and taking out his phone. 

Carefully dialing a number, he spoke softly in a dialect that nobody could recognize, "Mom, I'm already on the bus. Don't worry, I'll definitely earn enough money for my brother's dowry. Don't let him get too upset, even if he breaks his leg, he'll recover with some rest. Sister-in-law said we can wait until his leg heals before having the wedding, everything will be fine."

On the other end of the phone, Xiang Aoting: "..."

He shook his phone in confusion and increased the volume, "Mom? Can you hear me? Is there no signal?"

"I can hear you," Xiang Aoting adjusted his state and asked, "Have you seen the target?" 

"Strange, no signal?" Shi Jin stood up with his phone and began to move around the carriage, turning in a circle. Finally, his phone had a signal and he stopped, happy to say, "I can hear you now, Mom. What were you saying?"

This strange dialect really affected communication.

Xiang Aoting coughed softly and asked, "Have you found the mission target?"

"Yeah," Shi Jin replied.

"Yuan Ma-zi is going to meet up with the Werewolf group in City C this time. From S Province to City C, he will pass through six stations, with a total travel time of sixteen hours. Try to talk to him during this time and get 'kidnapped' by him," Xiang Aoting instructed.

Shi Jin shyly replied, "Mom, I know. My brother's wedding is important. He's almost thirty and still a bachelor. I'm still young and don't want to play with friends." 

Xiang Aoting: "..."

After the first routine call of the mission ended, Shi Jin was ecstatic while Xiang Aoting felt a bit traumatised, realizing that he didn't really understand his younger brother Shi Jin.

Yuan Ma-zi was a middle-aged man with a wax-yellow complexion, tall and thin, with sparse eyebrows and thin lips, and a somewhat harsh appearance. He sat in the corner of the carriage, dozing off when Shi Jin came in. 

He didn't notice Shi Jin until he heard his pleasant voice while making a call nearby, and opened his small, squinty eyes.

Shi Jin was dressed plainly, spoke with a rustic accent, and had a timid body language, but his looks were undeniably good. Although he had made some effort to conceal his delicate and pampered nature, and had roughened his skin a few degrees to cover up, his features couldn't be changed, and he was still handsome.

As Shi Jin put away his phone, he keenly sensed Yuan Ma-zi's gaze on him, lingering for a long time. He was pleased, but pretended not to notice and returned to his seat.

As the train started moving, the carriage gradually quieted down - there weren't many people getting on at this stop, and no one was talking.

Shi Jin leaned against his seat and looked out the window, occasionally glancing at his backpack and pressing the old phone in his hand. He looked like a little mouse, cautious and alert on his first trip.

As the sky darkened, the smell of instant noodles and boxed meals wafted through the carriage. Shi Jin's face showed signs of fatigue as he yawned, but he didn't go to buy any food. Instead, he got up and rummaged through his luggage, taking out a tightly wrapped package of biscuits from inside. 

As the night grew deeper, the passengers in the carriage gradually fell asleep. Shi Jin's head also drooped and he dozed off. In the early hours of the morning, the train made a stop and some people got on and off. 

Shi Jin went to relieve himself and on his way back, he purposely raised his hand to scratch his neck, revealing a glimpse of his attractive collarbone.

The frequency of train stops increased as they approached a bustling inland city. Shi Jin struck up a conversation with a middle-aged man who had a simple and honest face. He naively revealed a lot of personal information, but fortunately, the man he was talking to didn't seem like a bad person. 

Seeing how innocent Shi Jin was, he even reminded him to be more cautious outside and bought him a hot meal. Shi Jin was very grateful, his face full of embarrassment, but he ate his meal ravenously, looking very hungry.

After a few more hours of swaying on the train, they arrived at the next stop, City C, but Shi Jin still hadn't spoken to Yuan Ma-zi.

A call came in from Xiang Aoting, asking about his situation.

Shi Jin was tearing apart a bread roll in his seat and replied, "Almost there, let's talk when we arrive. My phone is about to die, but don't worry, I've hidden my money well."

When Xiang Aoting heard him mention money, he felt a twinge in his heart and asked, "Has Yuan Ma-zi already laid hands on you? Did he steal your money?" 

"Sure," Shi Jin replied, adding in his mind that he would strike soon after revealing that he would get off in City C. 

This Yuan Ma-zi was even more cunning and cautious than he had imagined. Although it was better that the other party took the initiative to make a move, it also reduced the possibility of him deliberately approaching and exposing his flaws.

Feeling relieved, Shi Jin didn't know whether to say he was lucky or that he was good at reading people's hearts accurately. He gave a few more instructions and hung up the phone proactively.

Half an hour later, the train successfully stopped and Shi Jin got off with his luggage, deliberately walking slowly to make it easier for Yuan Ma-zi to catch up. He followed the crowd out of the station and was bumped into several times. Each time, he apologized proactively. Finally, he stumbled and stumbled his way outside the train station, reaching for his phone to make a call.

But when he reached for it, he found his pocket empty. When Shi Jin realized his wallet was missing, he panicked and frantically searched through his pockets and luggage. 

"Little brother, what's wrong?" A tall, thin figure appeared next to Shi Jin.

Shi Jin's heart skipped a beat but he looked up at the person with caution, tightly pursing his lips to signal that there was nothing wrong, and he held onto his luggage, intending to leave.

Yuan Ma-zi quickly stopped him, showing a kind smile, and said, "Don't be afraid, little brother. I'm the friend you sat with on the train, in the corner seat. Remember? I noticed that you seemed to be in a bit of trouble, so I came over to help. We're all struggling away from home, it's not easy, and we should help each other out a little."

Shi Jin scrutinized him with suspicion, as if he had just remembered him. He slowly relaxed his guard, his eyebrows and eyes drooping as he spoke in imperfect Mandarin, "I am indeed in a bit of trouble. I can't find my phone... What should I do? My mother is still waiting for my call."

"Don't worry, Uncle's phone is yours to use. Keep looking, maybe you just misplaced it somewhere," Yuan Ma-zi quickly comforted him and handed over his phone.

This gesture successfully "won over" the naive Shi Jin, who showed a shy and embarrassed expression. He took Yuan Ma-zi's phone, repeatedly thanked him, and carefully dialed a number.

Xiang Aoting quickly answered the phone, but didn't say anything. 

"Mom, it's me," Shi Jin greeted proactively, glancing at Yuan Ma-zi standing beside him and smiling apologetically. "My phone ran out of battery, so I borrowed a kind person's phone on the same car... Yeah, it's okay. I'll call Uncle Wang from the factory right away. I remember the name."

Xiang Aoting: "...You're using Yuan Ma-zi's phone?"

"Yes," Shi Jin replied.

Xiang Aoting remained silent for a few seconds, gesturing to the other task members beside him to lock onto the phone number he was currently talking to. Then he asked, "Can you handle it? Do you need any help?"

"I can handle it. Mom, I'll hang up first. I don't want to use someone else's phone for too long," Shi Jin said, grateful as he hung up and returned Yuan Ma-zi's phone, thanking him repeatedly. 

Yuan Ma-zi quickly said it was nothing and took the opportunity to strike up a conversation, asking if he was waiting for someone and what he was doing in City C.

Shi Jinyi repeated what he had said in the car to others, saying that he had come to work and that an old friend, Uncle Wang, would come to pick him up. He then thanked Yuan Ma-zi again.

Yuan Ma-zi nodded and pretended to suspect that his phone had been stolen, suggesting that he check if anything else had been taken. Shi Jinyi panicked and searched through his luggage for his money, only to find it missing. He looked like he was about to cry.

Yuan Ma-zi exclaimed, "Oh my, what a terrible thief!" and quickly comforted him. 

After that, there was a series of tricks played on each other, and finally Yuan Ma-zi successfully convinced Shi Jin to get into his "friend's" car, saying that he wanted to take him to his hometown's factory.

Yuan Ma-zi's "friend" was a plain-looking young man driving an old van. When he saw Yuan Ma-zi bringing Shi Jin into the car, he frowned and said discontentedly, "Brother Liu, what are you doing? This is not the time to mess around."

"What are you yelling for? Don't scare Xiao Yuan, he's easily frightened," Yuan Ma-zi signaled to the young man with his eyes, then took out a bottle of water and handed it to Shi Jin, saying, "Here, drink up, we'll be at the factory soon."

The young man rolled his eyes and muttered "damn gay guy" under his breath, then started the car with a black face. Shi Jin looked confused and a little scared as he glanced at the young man, while fetching water and silently asking Xiao Si in his mind, "He probably added something to the water, didn't he."

Xiao Si gave a definite answer.

"Then give me a buff," Shi Jin said calmly.

Xiao Si silently activated it.

After communicating with each other, Shi Jin twisted open the water bottle and drank half of it directly. Yuan Ma-zi looked satisfied, his eyes on Shi Jin like he was looking at a piece of obedient pork belly.

Shi Jin smiled shyly at him, counted silently in his heart for a few seconds, and then at the right moment, he fainted cleanly and neatly.


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