Death Progress Bar

Death Progress Bar

Chapter 37 - Caring Little Cotton Jacket

In B City, Lian Jun had indeed followed the clues and located Li Jiuzheng. Through a phone call with Shi Weichong, they were able to pinpoint Li Jiuzheng's location.

Number Nine stopped typing on the keyboard and said, "The target's phone shows that they are on a highway near the border of L City, moving at a high speed. They turned off their phone after the call, so we can't continue tracking them."

Upon hearing this, Shi Weichong wiped his face with his hand and any last bit of hope he had disappeared. He slumped onto the couch, feeling defeated. 

Li Jiuzheng said over the phone that he had been staying in Rong City all this time and had not left. He also mentioned that although he received a call from Shi Jin last night, there was no communication between them, and Shi Jin remained silent throughout the call. 

However, the subordinates of Lian Jun have located Li Jiuzheng not far from B City in L City, and his direction of movement seems to indicate that he has just left B City and is heading towards L City, which was completely different from what Li Jiuzheng said on the phone.

Furthermore, shortly after Lian Jun retrieved the call records from Shi Jin's phone last night, he obtained the recording of the last call that was restored from Shi Jin's phone. The recording showed that Shi Jin spoke after answering the call, not only asking for help but also providing his exact location. 

The subsequent review of a large pile of surveillance footage revealed that a black car had briefly stopped on the street last night, and the duration of the stop perfectly coincided with the time when the phone call was abruptly ended. 

Most importantly, one of Li Jian's subordinates found all of Shi Jin's personal belongings in a nearby trash can. After reviewing surveillance footage from the area, they were able to confirm that the person who disposed of the items and the driver of the black car captured on camera were one and the same. 

All the clues pointed to Li Jiuzheng. Previously, Shi Weichong could still console himself with the words "there's no concrete evidence linking Li Jiuzheng to the black car, so we can't directly suspect that he took Shi Jin away." But now, Li Jiuzheng had hammered himself to death. He could no longer deceive himself - his youngest brother had been taken away by his supposedly honest fifth brother, who deliberately concealed his whereabouts.

He couldn't understand why Li Jiuzheng would do such a thing. After all, Li Jiuzheng had never shown any obvious malice towards Shi Jin. 

"Perhaps Jiuzheng just wanted to help Xiao Jin heal..." He came up with a flimsy excuse for Li Jiuzheng's deceitful behavior, which he himself didn't quite believe. 

Lian Jun rolled out in his wheelchair and said, "Treating injuries doesn't require hiding people away. Number One, book a flight to Rong City and send someone to track down Li Jiuzheng's whereabouts at various highway intersections."

"Yes," Number One nodded and turned to carry out the task.

Shi Weichong frowned and said, "Even if it was really Jiuzheng who took Xiao Jin away, he definitely wouldn't actually harm-"

"Can you be sure that Li Jiuzheng has no ill intentions towards Shi Jin?" Lian Jun interrupted him, getting straight to the point.

Shi Weichong was speechless. He couldn't be sure. Everyone in the Shi family, including himself, had absolutely no goodwill towards Shi Jin before seeing the changes in him up until now. 

In the past, Shi Jin was really too annoying. The negative emotions accumulated over the long decade couldn't be easily covered up with just a "maybe". Everyone knew why they didn't show any ill will towards Shi Jin before, and he was well aware of it too. Although Li Jiuzheng never showed any emotions on his face, no one could really say what he was thinking deep down.

Seeing that he couldn't answer, Lian Jun's lips curled into a cold smile. "You older brothers are all so ridiculous. What did Shi Jin ever do to you?" With that, he slid away in his wheelchair without even looking back.

Number Two and the rest quickly followed. 

In the blink of an eye, the study was empty except for Shi Weichong. He held his phone, thinking about the words left by Lian Jun. He scrolled through the New Year's greetings sent by Shi Jin last night, his fingers tightening with each swipe. Finally, he stood up and strode out of the study.


Shi Jin was injured and it got worse in the car without proper rest. He tried to stay conscious, but couldn't help drifting off again. After a while, he began to run a high fever. It was difficult enough to maintain consciousness, let alone find a chance to escape or send a message.

Li Jiuzheng quickly noticed that something was wrong with him. He glanced over and moved his fingers, but ultimately chose not to intervene.

Several hours passed without notice, and finally, in the dimmest afternoon sunlight, the car came to a stop. Li Jiuzheng had reached his destination. 

Shi Jin was forcibly awakened and stumbled out of the car, his hands and feet weak. With Xiao Si's reminder, he looked ahead and was scared almost to death - Li Jiuzheng had actually brought him to a cemetery. What was he planning to do, kill and bury him?

"On the first day of the lunar new year, it's a good day for worship," Li Jiuzheng said in a flat tone, gesturing for the driver to wait outside the cemetery. He pulled Shi Jin and walked towards the cemetery.

"Fifth Brother, why did you bring me here..." Shi Jin was dragged forward, his throat sore and his eyes blurry. He walked very unsteadily, and if it weren't for Li Jiuzheng pulling him, he would have probably fallen to the ground by now. Li Jiuzheng heard his almost inaudible voice, turned his head to look at him, stopped and took out a few pills, feeding them to him, saying, "Swallow them, you can't pass out now."

Shi Jin didn't resist, obediently opened his mouth and swallowed the pills, taking a deep breath to barely regain his composure. He asked again, "Fifth Brother, where are we?"

Li Jiuzheng continued to pull him forward and replied, "The place where my mother is buried."

"What? Where your mother's buried... cough cough cough." Shi Jin spoke too quickly and accidentally choked on the pill stuck in his throat, immediately bending over and coughing uncontrollably.

Li Jiuzheng was forced to stop and turned to look at him, his hand on Shi Jin's arm tightening slowly, his expression becoming somewhat frightening. 

"Jin Jin, the progress bar has gone up again, it's at 910 now." Xiao Si was extremely anxious, feeling that something was off with Li Jiuzheng's condition.

Upon hearing this, Shi Jin quickly suppressed his cough and gestured to Li Jiuzheng to continue moving forward, indicating that he didn't need to worry about him.

It must be said that Shi Jin's current appearance was truly pitiful. His complexion was terrible, his lips lacked color, his cheeks were a sickly crimson due to high fever, his hair was limp and flat, and the hospital gown he had thrown on last night didn't fit him properly, hanging loosely on his body. His coat was a mess, with blood stains on it, and his wrists, exposed outside of his clothes, were covered in blood vessel marks from the cold. Just looking at him made one feel cold. 

As Li Jiuzheng looked at his current appearance, his eyes were momentarily dazed. After coming back to his senses, his expression suddenly became solemn and he stopped speaking. He strode towards a corner of the cemetery without saying a word.

Shi Jin followed behind, stumbling along, but dared not speak to Li Jiuzheng. Instead, he communicated cautiously in his heart, "Li Jiuzheng's mother died? Why wasn't this mentioned in the original plot!"

Even Xiao Si was surprised by this news and hesitated before replying, "Probably because the original plot was written from the perspective of the original original owner, who didn't know about this, so it wasn't mentioned in the plot." 

Shi Jin felt bitter in his mouth and said in agony, "It's so frustrating that they didn't mention such important information. No wonder my progress bar surged after I asked Li Jiuzheng why he wasn't home with his family during the Lunar New Year. It turns out his most important family member has passed away. My question really hit a nerve."

Xiao Si was very worried. Instead of the plot, it was more concerned about Shi Jin's health. It said, "Jin Jin, you need to get treatment and rest well. You can't keep dragging on like this." 

"I know, but right now we don't have the conditions for treatment and rest..." Shi Jin glanced at Li Jiuzheng, who was striding ahead of him, and tried to gather his thoughts. "And Li Jiuzheng's attitude is really strange. I feel like we could learn something from him... Let's see how things go. I can hold on a little longer."

Xiao Si didn't have any other options, so it just gave Shi Jin a bunch of buffs, hoping he would feel better and hold on a little longer. It silently prayed for Lian Jun to come soon.

The two of them walked for a while, with one pulling and the other following, until they finally arrived at Li Jiuzheng's mother's grave. Li Jiuzheng pressed Shi Jin towards the new tombstone and reached out to touch the photo on it. "Take a good look at her," he said. 

As he was pushed, Shi Jin narrowly avoided hitting the tombstone. He managed to steady himself by placing his hand on the ground, but his knee scraped against the rough surface, causing a sharp pain that he knew had broken the skin.

He gritted his teeth and shifted his position, opting to sit in front of the tombstone instead of kneeling. He looked up at the photo pointed out by Li Jiuzheng and froze. Li Jiuzheng's mother looked nothing like him, but instead shared some resemblance with Shi Jin's facial features.

Well, not entirely dissimilar. Upon closer inspection, Li Jiuzheng's mother did share some similarities with him, such as the shape of her face and lips. But it was those eyes and eyebrows... 

"We don't look alike, right?" Li Jiuzheng bent down, one hand on Shi Jin's shoulder and the other touching the photo on the tombstone. They looked at the beautiful and gentle woman in the photo together, and Li Jiuzheng whispered, "I am her child, but I don't look anything like her. Instead, it's you... She always dreamed of having a child who looked like her. Why don't I give you to her, isn't that good?" 

...Good my ass!!! 

Shi Jin was shocked by this statement, his mind in chaos - so Li Jiuzheng's deep hatred for the original owner actually came from such a ridiculous reason. Who would have thought that Li Jiuzheng's mother would look so much like the original owner! 

But didn't the original owner's face look so much like their mother's, but now he also resembles Li Jiuzheng's mother? Xu Chuan and Rong Zhouzhong both said that the original owner looked like their mother... Wait a minute! The original owner and their mother look alike, and now the eyebrows and eyes of Li Jiuzheng's mother are somewhat similar to the original owner's. Does this indirectly suggest that Li Jiuzheng's mother and the original owner's mother also look very similar...

There was a faintly important piece of information about to jump out of his mind, and Shi Jin was still deep in thought when suddenly his neck hurt. He looked down and saw that Li Jiuzheng had taken out a surgical knife and held it to his neck, lightly cutting a small wound. All thoughts immediately vanished from his mind.

- This time, I'm really going to die!

Xiao Si panicked and screamed, "Jin Jin! The progress bar is at 990! Do something quickly!" 

Shi Jin was on the verge of collapse. What could he do in this situation where even ghosts couldn't make sense of it? He might as well just end it all and commit suicide with a knife. Li Jiuzheng was a madman. How could such a dangerous person be a doctor who saves lives?

Wait, a doctor?

Suddenly, a light bulb went off in Shi Jin's mind. With a desperate idea in mind, he reached out and grabbed Li Jiuzheng's hand that was holding the surgical knife. He earnestly said, "Brother, don't use this. And don't do it here. A surgical knife is meant to save lives. Don't stain your hands because of me."

Li Jiuzheng's hand stiffened, and his tone suddenly became even colder. He said, "Do you think saying that will make me spare you?" 

"I just hope you can let yourself off!" Shi Jin quickly replied, trying to relax his body and lean against him. He glanced at the death date of Li Jiuzheng's mother on the tombstone and had an idea. He spoke softly, "Brother, over the years, you've had countless opportunities to kill me, but you never did. You don't want to kill me, do you?"

Li Jiuzheng didn't speak, nor did he push him away. His eyes were fixed on the tombstone, his emotions deep and indiscernible. 

The wound was causing him discomfort, and Shi Jin furrowed his brows, but he tried to keep his voice steady. Slowly, he turned to the side and tentatively reached out to embrace Li Jiuzheng's waist, allowing Xiao Si to give him a bunch of buffs. 

His voice grew even lower as he spoke, "Brother, I know you're just feeling upset because you lost your mother recently, so you acted impulsively... You could have spent this year's New Year with her, but suddenly lost the chance forever before the holiday." 

Li Jiuzheng's hand on Shi Jin's shoulder suddenly tightened, and his body tensed up. 

Shi Jin rushed into his brother's arms, hugging him tightly and pushing away the surgical knife in his hand. He comforted him by running his hand down his back and said, "Brother, we are the same. I am also alone this year. And for so many years, I don't even know what my mother looks like or where she is buried. I don't have any memories of her. Brother, I only have all of you left..."

Li Jiuzheng remained silent, gripping the surgical knife tightly and then slowly relaxing his grip, his lips pursed tightly.

"Brother, let me accompany you. We can still celebrate the New Year together like we used to. Everything will be okay. It'll be alright," Shi Jin continued to comfort him, adding all kinds of buff effects to lift his spirits. 

"...Who do you think you are." After a long silence, Li Jiuzheng finally spoke. His voice was low and mocking, and his hand holding the surgical knife slowly dropped down. His body relaxed and he sat directly on the ground, as if he had lost all strength.

Xiao Si excitedly reminded him, "It's decreasing, it's decreasing! The progress bar is down to 950!"

Shi Jin breathed a sigh of relief. Seeing that his plan to seek sympathy was working, he quickly leaned into Li Jiuzheng's arms and rubbed his shoulder to comfort him. He continued, "Brother, if you're really uncomfortable, just cry it out. I'll be here with you."

Scientific research has shown that hugs and emotional release can quickly soothe the emotions of those who have been hurt. Shi Jin only hoped that after Li Jiuzheng vented his anger, it would reduce his desire to kill him a little bit. 

However, Li Jiuzheng did not cooperate with him. Although he did not push away his embrace, his emotions gradually calmed down, and the initial alienation and indifference returned to his eyes. He said, "Only losers cry. I'm not a loser."

"..." Shi Jin suddenly regretted not watching more emotional talk shows before, to learn from the hosts' tear-jerking techniques. 

The progress bar was still at a dangerous point. Li Jiuzheng's murderous intent had not completely dissipated. Shi Jin weighed the situation and said in a considerate and gentle manner, "Let me cry for you. I'm not good at anything anyway. When my mother passed away, I was too young, I don't even know whether I cried or not. Now we're like brothers in this difficult situation. If you can't cry, then I will. It's okay, little brother will always be big brother's caring little cotton jacket." 

After speaking, he had Xiao Si add some buffs for himself, and then he started crying with a sniffle. His tears flowed freely as if they were free, and in no time, he soaked Li Jiuzheng's shoulder.

Li Jiuzheng: "......"

"Wuwuwuwu, a child without a mother is like a weed. We're all weeds..." Shi Jin cried and even started singing, wiping his snot all over Li Jiuzheng's clothes. 

Li Jiuzheng, who had a bit of OCD, stiffened and pushed him away with a look of disgust.

Shi Jin was crying so hard, how could he let him push him away? He reached out and grabbed his neck, holding him even tighter as he cried and cursed in his heart at Xiao Si, "What kind of buff did you add? I feel so uncomfortable, I want to cry on the Great Wall to vent my emotions."

Xiao Si weakly spoke up, "I-I added the buff of Meng Jiangnu crying on the Great Wall*..."

*T/N: An ancient story of a woman who cried bitterly on the Great Wall of China over the death of her husband.

Shi Jin: "...Waaahhh..."

The north wind howled as the sun slowly set behind the mountains.

The two brothers sat in front of the tombstone, one with hands hanging limply, expressionless as he gazed at the tombstone, his eyebrows slightly furrowed, his eyes filled with suppressed emotions. The other was crying as if the world was ending, as if he wouldn't stop until he cried the heavens down. 

As sporadic visitors came to pay their respects at the grave, they couldn't help but imagine a dramatic scene of separation and reunion, sighing and shaking their heads before leaving.

After more than an hour, Shi Jin's cries finally weakened. Dehydration, high fever, and hunger had taken their toll, and his consciousness was fading. He curled up in Li Jiuzheng's arms, shivering from the cold.

"When she first met Shi Xingrui, she was just a naive girl under twenty," Li Jiuzheng suddenly spoke, his voice soft but devoid of emotion. Shi Jin's drowsy consciousness was pulled back, and he nuzzled his head against his chest, indicating that he was listening. 

"She was the last woman that Shi Xingrui had pursued before your mother appeared. Although Shi Xingrui abandoned her immediately after my birth, she still held onto the fantasy - you see, your father still cares about you, he hasn't found another woman, maybe he will come back someday... It was these ridiculous thoughts that made her perfect those ridiculous fantasies and gradually become addicted to them."

Shi Jin woke up, feeling a bit stunned. 

"But fantasies are just fantasies. Your mother appeared and shattered her fantasy...and then she brewed up another dream. You see, that woman looks a lot like me. Your father just wanted a young body, but it doesn't matter. When she has a child like me and her body changes, your father will realize who the best one is...but your mother is special, and so are you."

Shi Jinqiang propped himself up and looked up at Li Jiuzheng's expression. 

Li Jiuzheng looked down at him with a blank expression and reached up to touch his face. "And then after that she went crazy, truly crazy. At first, she would dream and wake up, not believing that she had been abandoned, ignoring the existence of your mother, and stubbornly believing that you were also her child. 

"She blamed me for Shi Xingrui not coming to see her, saying that he hated me because I didn't look like her or Shi Xingrui, and that's why he abandoned her. Eventually, she even suspected that I was switched at birth. Can you believe it? I was right in front of her, but she thought that you, whom she had never seen before, were her child." 

"Brother..." Shi Jin felt uneasy listening to this and wanted to comfort him, but didn't know what to say. 

"Genes are really strange things. Back then, there were many things I couldn't understand, so I studied medicine," said Li Jiuzheng. He blocked half of Shi Jin's face and only looked at his eyebrows and eyes. His gaze gradually became trance-like. 

"Later, I understood a lot, I knew why I didn't look like my parents, and I knew that her dreams were actually a physical problem. I tried my best to treat her, carefully maintaining her mental state... And then Shi Xingrui died, he finally died, and I thought she could finally wake up from her dreams..." 

"Brother, please don't say anymore," Shi Jin raised his hand to stop him from continuing. 

Li Jiuzheng let go of his hand and his expression disappeared completely. "But she died, the dream ended, and she didn't even have the will to live anymore. No matter how much I tried to persuade her, she still died, right in front of me. She even blamed me before she died, asking why I didn't look like her."

Shi Jin hurriedly grabbed his hand again and said, "It's not your fault. She was just sick. Brother, it's all Shi Xingrui's fault. Your mother was just sick, don't blame yourself." 

"I almost made the same mistake as her, dreaming that it would have been better if you were never born, or if you were really her child...but what does that have to do with you? You're just a child who lost their mother..." Li Jiuzheng slowly withdrew his hand, building a thick wall in his eyes to hide all his emotions and prevent others from entering. "Shi Jin, you can go now."

Xiao Si exclaimed, "It's dropping! Jin Jin, your progress bar has dropped to 500! It's unbelievable!"

Shi Jin was taken aback, then frowned deeply and looked at Li Jiuzheng. "Fifth Brother, I'm not leaving. Don't overthink things, life will get better." 

"You can go now," said Li Jiuzheng without looking at him. He picked up the surgical knife from the ground and suddenly looked towards a nearby path. "That person is here to pick you up, right? He came straight towards us when he saw you... Go, I don't want to see you anymore."

Shi Jin was taken aback and followed Li Jiuzheng's gaze to see a familiar figure in a wheelchair approaching from the end of the path. His eyes lit up and he instinctively stood up to greet him, but then quickly stopped himself. 

He bent down to snatch the surgical knife from Li Jiuzheng's hand, pulled him up from the ground and said, "We've paid our respects to our ancestors on New Year's Day. Now let's go back and continue celebrating."

Li Jiuzheng frowned and stood up, reaching for the surgical knife in Shi Jin's hand. "Give me back the knife," he said. 

"No, it's mine now." Shi Jin decisively put the surgical knife into his pocket, grabbed Li Jiuzheng's hand, and pulled him towards Lian Jun while saying, "I already said I'll accompany you. Both of us lost our parents, it's nice to spend the New Year together. Let's go home, I'll make dumplings for you to eat."

Li Jiuzheng stood still: "We don't eat dumplings during the New Year in Rong City."


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