Safety Manual Labor Tips with a Twist of 2D Chapter 12

Chapter 12 This Dirty Body

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Before the world transformed into its current wretched state, Zhang Xiaoxiao was an atheist.

Three years ago, he worked as a salesperson at an insurance company, tirelessly striving to meet the demands of his mortgage. Occasionally, he felt despondent, secretly harboring a wish for the world’s demise. However, one day, his wish was unexpectedly granted in a strange manner…

What brought Zhang Xiaoxiao the greatest sorrow was that before the apocalypse, he worked in insurance, and even after the apocalypse, he continued in the same line of work, although the nature of his tasks underwent a drastic change.

The bed beneath him felt uncomfortably rigid, prompting Zhang Xiaoxiao to shift his position. The movie he had seen in the cinema was exceedingly popular, even claiming the title of the year’s highest-grossing film. The scenes from that movie lingered as shadows in Zhang Xiaoxiao’s mind. Just a few days ago, he had rewatched it for a client, further deepening the shadow’s impact.

Whether it was due to being unaccustomed to his surroundings or having stayed up late the previous night, Zhang Xiaoxiao couldn’t shake the feeling that he hadn’t slept well. In the realm between dreams and wakefulness, his body weighed heavily upon him…

Thoughts of the day’s events and the impending burial filled Zhang Xiaoxiao’s mind, causing his heart to race, and he tossed and turned, unable to find sleep.

The night had deepened, but the glow of red lanterns outside the window illuminated the surroundings, transforming the mountain village into a place that thrived without the need for sunlight. The lanterns, like a sea of fire, turned the small hollow in the mountains into a well-lit thoroughfare.

After a while, Zhang Xiaoxiao finally began to feel a sliver of sleepiness. Just as he closed his eyes, he caught faint, scuttling sounds—a soft, nimble crawling on the ground. If it were any other ordinary day, he probably wouldn’t think much of it and drift off to sleep. However, he was now in a horror movie, and a shiver ran down Zhang Xiaoxiao’s spine. He possessed a strange sense of danger, which had saved him from numerous troubles in the past. At this moment, his mind’s sixth sense blared like an alarm, as if something terrifying lurked silently behind that hushed doorway.

Next, Zhang Xiaoxiao made the most sensible decision of his life. He silently rose from the bed and sought refuge inside the cabinet opposite.

The faint rustling sounds returned, and through the narrow gaps in the cabinet, Zhang Xiaoxiao caught a glimpse of something stirring on the floor. Gradually drawing nearer, he recognized it as a human figure made of paper… Judging by the figure’s clothing and appearance, it was unmistakably the same paper figurine Xu Yuan had placed atop his parents’ coffins downstairs.

Two paper figurines, carrying what seemed like a blanket, advanced toward Zhang Xiaoxiao’s bed. Their pallid faces bore no expression, only an creepy smile. Their tiny feet created a soft rustling sound, the same sound Zhang Xiaoxiao had heard moments ago.

Upon reaching Zhang Xiaoxiao’s bed, they coordinated their efforts to drape the blanket over it. Fortunately, they seemed incapable of discerning whether someone lay on the bed, thus failing to notice Zhang Xiaoxiao’s swift escape.

With the blanket neatly spread over Zhang Xiaoxiao’s bed, the two paper figurines knelt down, repeatedly bowing in reverence toward the bed.

Zhang Xiaoxiao shuddered in terror, unable to avert his gaze, fearing the potential occurrence of an unforeseen event.

The two paper figurines performed their brief worship and then rose to retrieve the blanket. Illuminated by the lantern’s glow beyond the window, Zhang Xiaoxiao managed to see the true nature of the object—it was no blanket at all. Instead, it was a human skin, fully peeled, displaying the distinct textures of human flesh and clearly recognizable facial features.

Suddenly, Zhang Xiaoxiao grasped the underlying cause of the profound heaviness he had experienced the previous night.

Fear, as sharp as a knife, viciously pierced Zhang Xiaoxiao’s heart. A pain throbbed in his chest, darkness clouded his vision, and his body, bereft of balance, crumpled weakly inside the cabinet.

After an indeterminate duration, Zhang Xiaoxiao’s senses gradually returned to him. He emerged from the cabinet, greeted by the sight of a dawning sky outside the window.

Lin Zhaohe, seated on the ground floor, contentedly gnawing on a corn cob, engaged in a discussion with Qi Ming about Zhang Xiaoxiao’s prolonged absence. They contemplated whether it was necessary to investigate. Suddenly, the silence of the second floor was shattered by a thunderous wail.

From the second floor, a robust figure in boxer shorts, his face covered in stubble, descended in a frenzied sprint. In the midst of the onlookers’ astonished expressions, he sought solace within Qi Ming’s embrace.

“Wuwuwu, I want to go home!” Zhang Xiaoxiao’s tearful demeanor stirred a sense of sympathy in others. Even his beard was adorned with shimmering droplets of tears. “I feel unclean, so unclean!”

Everyone’s pupils quivered in response. 

Zhuang Lao’s gaze wavered for a moment, and then he directed a reproachful look at Qi Ming. “He’s already married.”

Qi Ming: “?????”

In these times, one’s life may perish, but one’s honor must be preserved. Qi Ming, consumed by anger, forcefully pushed Zhang Xiaoxiao away and countered, “What are you saying? There is absolutely nothing between us!”

A solitary tear trickled down the corner of Zhang Xiaoxiao’s eye. “Then what am I supposed to do? They, they—”

Lin Zhaohe possessed a keen ability to discern crucial details. “They?!”

The individuals present inhaled sharply, their bodies chilled. Lin Zhaohe’s mind suddenly recalled the danmei novel he had read before, surprised that such a plot would find its way into this horror movie. Could this be considered an intermingling of genres? Moreover, it seemed that there were more than two participants involved.

Qi Ming reached his limit. He forcefully detached Zhang Xiaoxiao, who clung to him like an octopus, and angrily insisted on a rational conversation. After all, he was about to enter into matrimony and couldn’t allow his innocence to be sullied without reason.

Zhang Xiaoxiao sobbed for quite some time before managing to regain composure. With a stuttering voice, he recounted the events of the previous night.

Goosebumps appeared on the skin of the onlookers, especially when they considered that Zhang Xiaoxiao had endured being covered by that entity throughout the entire night…

Qi Ming uttered in a chilling manner, “Indeed, your body is undeniably tainted.”

Zhang Xiaoxiao: “Sniffle, sniffle.”

Lin Zhaohe stroked his chin, deep in thought, before clapping his hands. “I’ve got it!”

“What have you discovered?” Qi Ming inquired.

Lin Zhaohe exclaimed, “I’ve deciphered their strategy! They must be exploiting our fears to achieve some undisclosed agenda!”

Zhang Xiaoxiao treaded carefully. “Have you considered the possibility that there might truly be ghosts?”

Lin Zhaohe expressed disagreement. “That displays a lack of trust in our verification process!”

Zhang Xiaoxiao: “…”

Lin Zhaohe declared, “You may doubt yourself, but you mustn’t doubt our comrades in the verification team. If my memory serves me right, this film was screened in theaters a few years prior to the doomsday.”

“I’ve actually seen it before…” Zhang Xiaoxiao hesitated, realizing the source of Qi Ming’s unwavering confidence in Lin Zhaohe. This person clung firmly to his beliefs, whether it be viewed as faith or simply naivety.

“Then there’s nothing to worry about,” reassured Lin Zhaohe. “By the way, someone sneaked a booklet into my suitcase yesterday. I went through it carefully twice.”

“What kind of booklet?” Qi Ming inquired.

“It’s about an ancient deity,” Lin Zhaohe explained. “Most likely the same god worshipped in this village, known as Xiluo. The deity despises light and thrives on the faith of the villagers, bestowing blessings upon this village for centuries…” He attempted to continue his explanation but was interrupted by Qi Ming’s gesture to halt.

“No need to elaborate. We’ve already witnessed it all in the movie,” Qi Ming interjected.

“Then why would they place this booklet in my possession?” Lin Zhaohe pondered aloud. “Are they attempting to spread their teachings? But how can they do so now, when the world is in chaos? I might as well believe in the Flying Sky Noodle Sect.”

Qi Ming let out a deep sigh, his voice filled with world-weariness. “Once we find our way out of here, I will answer all of your questions without fail.”

Lin Zhaohe remarked, “Your words seem rather foreboding.”

Qi Ming: “…”

After soothing Zhang Xiaoxiao’s emotions, a moment of tranquility settled among the group until they realized that Xu Yuan, who should have been by their side, had mysteriously disappeared.

“Oh no, where did Xu Yuan go?” Qi Ming’s worry grew evident.

“I have no idea. Wasn’t he just standing right here?” Lin Zhaohe pointed to the now vacant spot.

Just as they were about to venture outside in search of Xu Yuan, a deafening boom echoed from beyond. The already dim sky swiftly became engulfed in dark clouds, giving the impression that the entire firmament was on the brink of collapsing. Rain was imminent, and it promised to be a violent deluge.

“It has arrived,” Qi Ming remarked, glancing towards the sky.

“Once the rain starts, it won’t let up for three whole days,” Zhang Xiaoxiao muttered, as if reciting a repeated line. “The rain grows fiercer, turning the mountain path into a muddy mess that’s impossible to traverse. Despite the unfavorable conditions, they refuse to postpone the funeral, insisting on laying them to rest in the midst of a torrential downpour. And I saw those apparitions again. Could it be that I’ve gone insane?”

“Why did Xu Yuan go outside?” Amidst the downpour, Lin Zhaohe caught sight of Xu Yuan.

Xu Yuan stood in a secluded corner of the courtyard, holding a shovel as he dug into something. Through the curtain of rain, his figure blurred and melded with the surroundings, resembling a watercolor painting on the verge of being washed away.

After contemplating for a moment, Lin Zhaohe ascended the stairs to retrieve an umbrella and offered it to Xu Yuan.

Xu Yuan, soaked to the bone, found the umbrella somewhat superfluous. He glanced at Lin Zhaohe and graciously expressed his gratitude.

“What’s the pit for?” Lin Zhaohe inquired.

“It’s for burying my parents,” Xu Yuan responded.

Lin Zhaohe’s expression briefly faltered, caught off guard by the revelation.

Xu Yuan paid no further attention, stooping over to continue his excavation with the shovel. He diligently dug until a deep pit, half a meter in height, emerged. Satisfied, he finally turned back toward the house. Lin Zhaohe stood nearby, observing the scene. Initially assuming that Xu Yuan was about to take a break, little did he expect Xu Yuan to pick up two paper figurines from the coffin. 

With deliberate steps, Xu Yuan approached the edge of the freshly dug pit. The rain-soaked paper figurines exhibited distorted and smudged features, yet their material remained resolute, as though they were made of something other than paper…

Evidently struck by a realization, Zhang Xiaoxiao’s spine tingled with a renewed chill. Swallowing hard, he swallowed the words he had intended to speak.

Wearing a somber expression, Xu Yuan flung the paper figurines into the pit, followed by successive shovelfuls of soil. The earth rained down upon them with force, covering the figures beneath layers of mud. Accompanied by the mingling of soil and water, the paper figurines, with pallid faces, were entombed in this manner.

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