Safety Manual Labor Tips with a Twist of 2D Chapter 14

Chapter 14 Don’t judge a book by its cover

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If the red lanterns were considered soul lanterns, then they were hung all around the village. Even during heavy rain, the lanterns remained unchanged, still hanging in their places.

After the village chief left, Zhang Xiaoxiao stood at the doorway, wearing a solemn expression.

Noticing this, Lin Zhaohe inquired, “What’s the matter?”

“Something doesn’t feel right,” Zhang Xiaoxiao said.

“What exactly doesn’t feel right?” Lin Zhaohe asked.

“It seems like they have set up some kind of barrier near our house,” Zhang Xiaoxiao said. “As soon as I stepped outside, I felt a sharp pain in my feet…”

Lin Zhaohe thought, “Your mind is playing tricks on you,” and took a few steps toward the doorway. The rain had been pouring relentlessly, and the yard’s drainage was poor, causing the water level to rise up to his calves.

After walking a couple of steps, to Lin Zhaohe’s surprise, he also felt the tingling sensation on his skin that Zhang Xiaoxiao had described. He didn’t dare to go any further and quickly turned back.

“The village chief must have done something to us before he left,” Zhang Xiaoxiao said. “I’ve heard about dark practices in Southeast Asia, where they put spells in food, and once eaten, it allows them to control people.”

Lin Zhaohe had heard about it as well. He stood silently in place for a moment, gazing at the rain that relentlessly poured outside the window and the soul lantern still shining brightly above his head.

Zhang Xiaoxiao wanted to say a few more words, but he saw Lin Zhaohe suddenly turn back into the house as if searching for something. He asked, “What are you looking for?”

Without a response, Lin Zhaohe turned and headed to the adjacent room.

Zhang Xiaoxiao felt completely bewildered and was about to follow when suddenly, the room’s lights went out. Simultaneously, the soul lantern above his head also went dark. Remembering the village chief’s warning about never extinguishing the soul lanterns and coupled with the eerie encounter from the previous night, Zhang Xiaoxiao broke into a cold sweat.

In the complete darkness, the sound of footsteps approached. Zhang Xiaoxiao turned around and saw Lin Zhaohe’s face, pale and distressed.

Zhang Xiaoxiao couldn’t determine when Lin Zhaohe had come up behind him. He trembled all over and his voice quivered, “Brother…Lin…”

Lin Zhaohe’s voice was faint, like paper, as he said, “You go outside.”

Zhang Xiaoxiao choked up and pleaded, “Please, don’t send me out.” The outside was enveloped in pitch-black darkness, which was extremely terrifying.

Lin Zhaohe’s expression took on an odd look as he said, “What are you afraid of? There won’t be any ghosts coming to devour you.”

He spoke those words just as a loud thunderclap echoed outside, casting a revealing light on his already fair complexion, making it as pale as paper. “But there are two coffins inside the house. Aren’t you afraid anymore…?”

Zhang Xiaoxiao’s body was drenched in cold sweat. He felt an immense unfamiliarity with the person before him, even perceiving that the figure wasn’t truly Lin Zhaohe but a paper replica molded to resemble him. Zhang Xiaoxiao’s body stiffened, frozen in place, unable to move forward or retreat. Confronted by Lin Zhaohe’s assertive demeanor, he eventually yielded—trembling, he took a few hesitant steps outside.

“Huh?” Just after walking a few steps, Zhang Xiaoxiao’s face displayed a bewildered expression as the previous sensation of pain inexplicably vanished.

Lin Zhaohe said, “See, everything’s fine now, isn’t it?”

Zhang Xiaoxiao was astonished and said, “I never thought that Brother Lin has such extraordinary abilities. What did you do to break the village chief’s spell?”

Lin Zhaohe replied, “What spell? Farts, this lantern has an electrical leak.”

Zhang Xiaoxiao: “…”

“I knew it wouldn’t go out. Can light bulbs go out?” Lin Zhaohe said. “With this heavy rain, there’s bound to be electrical leakage. I remember watching an episode about it on ‘Approaching Science’…”

Zhang Xiaoxiao quietly returned to the house, no longer wanting to speak.

Lin Zhaohe fetched a chair and, after searching for a while, finally found the lantern’s switch. After turning it off, he restored the power in the house. Poor Qi Ming was in the middle of taking a shower when the lights suddenly went out. Covered in foam, he hastily rushed downstairs, only for the power to come back on. He had no choice but to curse and go back upstairs again.

It was uncertain if it was due to Lin Zhaohe’s diversion, but Zhang Xiaoxiao’s initial sense of fear diminished considerably. After the events of the previous night, he even dared to sleep alone, contemplating whether he was too easily influenced by others, be it by horror movies or by Lin Zhaohe… It must be acknowledged that Lin Zhaohe possessed an incredibly powerful energy, so powerful that it seemed capable of altering the environment around him.

Lost in deep thought, Zhang Xiaoxiao slowly descended into a state of slumber.

In the realm between dreams and wakefulness, he seemed to catch a glimpse of a distant sound. His naturally alert senses promptly roused him from his deep sleep. Zhang Xiaoxiao opened his eyes, greeted by an enveloping darkness outside.

“Why is it so dark?” he wondered. “Could it still be early in the morning?” Wait, something doesn’t feel right. Zhang Xiaoxiao grabbed his phone and checked the time—it was already twelve noon. Why was the sky so dark? How did he manage to sleep for such a long time? Zhang Xiaoxiao started feeling uneasy. He got up from the bed, planning to open the window and peek outside, but as soon as his hand touched the window, he quickly pulled it back.

There was an obstruction on his window, blocking the light…

The room was too dark to see clearly. Zhang Xiaoxiao shakily turned on the flashlight on his phone and directed its beam towards the window. What he witnessed was an enormous eye, firmly pressed against the windowpane, casting a shadow over everything. The eye was so colossal that only a fraction of its pupil could be seen through Zhang Xiaoxiao’s window. The pupil trembled ever so slightly, focused, and moved, eventually fixating on Zhang Xiaoxiao himself.

Zhang Xiaoxiao let out a startled cry and quickly turned around, intending to escape. He rushed to the doorway and grabbed the doorknob, only to find that the door wouldn’t open, no matter how hard he pushed. In fact, something outside was forcefully pounding on the door, as if attempting to break through. Zhang Xiaoxiao cried out in terror, desperately trying to hold the door, but his efforts were futile, like a praying mantis trying to halt an oncoming car.

Suddenly, Zhang Xiaoxiao heard a rustling sound coming from beneath his feet. He glanced down and discovered numerous paper figurines squeezing through the gap under the door. Each figurine wore a distinct outfit, with their faces adorned in weird, colorful makeup. Their delicate hands firmly clung to Zhang Xiaoxiao’s body.

Although each individual paper figure possessed minimal strength, their overwhelming numbers inundated the room, completely enveloping Zhang Xiaoxiao. They covered him entirely, like a layer of ash settling upon his entire form. Zhang Xiaoxiao’s pleas for help grew fainter and eventually became barely audible. After a moment, everything returned to tranquility, as if the events that unfolded had never occurred in that space.

Lin Zhaohe glanced at his watch, “Why hasn’t Zhang Xiaoxiao come downstairs yet? I hope everything is alright.”

“I called out to him when I came out,” Qi Ming said. “He responded, saying he was getting dressed. He told me to go ahead and have breakfast while he finishes up. I just called him, and he picked up, assuring me he’ll be down soon.”

“Since he answered the phone, it’s likely that he’s fine,” Zhuang Lao furrowed his brow slightly. “But let’s go upstairs and check just to be sure.”

Consequently, the group proceeded to the second floor.

“Zhang Xiaoxiao, Zhang Xiaoxiao!” Qi Ming knocked on the door.

“Is he not here?” Lin Zhaohe remarked. “Step aside.”

Qi Ming moved to the side, and Lin Zhaohe kicked the door. The house was old, and the door wasn’t sturdy, so it easily swung open. However, Zhang Xiaoxiao was nowhere to be found.

“Where is Zhang Xiaoxiao?” Qi Ming asked. “The door was locked from the inside. Could he have left through the window?”

Lin Zhaohe approached the window and shook his head. “The window is locked as well.”

It seemed like a locked-room mystery now. Xu Yuan had been silent all this time but finally spoke up, “Don’t you have your friend’s phone? Try calling again?”

Qi Ming dialed the number, but it played the sound indicating the phone was switched off.

“This is not good, where could he be?” Qi Ming’s worry grew. “I called him just ten minutes ago.” He rolled up his sleeves. “It’s likely the village chief and his group, right? Do we have any suspects?” He was well aware that Xu Yuan had returned for revenge, so there should be a few potential suspects by now.

Surprisingly, Xu Yuan’s expression turned slightly peculiar. He glanced at Lin Zhaohe and murmured a few words.

Lin Zhaohe caught snippets of Xu Yuan’s muttered words, “It’s strange. Why did it have to be him who got into trouble?”

Lin Zhaohe thought to himself, “That’s true. I shouldn’t have done all those things I shouldn’t have. Why did it have to be Zhang Xiaoxiao? He’s just a disabled young man who has a wife, children, and an elderly mother to take care of.”

“Why couldn’t it have been me?” Lin Zhaohe reproached himself. “If only I had scolded the village chief again yesterday.”

The others remained silent, thinking, “You always play as the main tank in games, don’t you?”

“Is it possible that they couldn’t find Lin Zhaohe?” Zhuang Lao raised an eyebrow. “Considering…”

Both Qi Ming and Xu Yuan displayed a knowing expression.

Only Lin Zhaohe was still perplexed, contemplating whether he should grab a knife and have a conversation with the village chief right now, hoping to find Zhang Xiaoxiao.

“Let’s take it one step at a time,” Qi Ming said. “Tomorrow morning is the most critical moment. If we get through it, Zhang Xiaoxiao will surely return. If not… we’ll all perish here.”

Lin Zhaohe deeply regretted not having Qi Ming thoroughly explain the movie to him before they arrived. “What are you all talking about? I can’t understand a single word.”

“Not understanding is actually a good thing,” Zhuang Lao laughed.

“Alright then, I’ll follow the boss’s lead. What should we do about Xiaoxiao now?” Lin Zhaohe asked. “Should we go and search everywhere?”

“No need for that. Xu Yuan will be safe until his parents’ burial,” Qi Ming said. “Let’s wait until tomorrow. Xu Yuan, are you alright with that?”

Xu Yuan responded calmly, “I’m fine. Everything is ready.” With those words, he turned around and left.

Lin Zhaohe felt completely out of the loop, as if he were an oblivious bystander. Suddenly, everything went dark, yet Zhuang Lao insisted he played a crucial role… But where was the significance in that? Shouldn’t he simply be an obedient spectator?

The funeral was scheduled for tomorrow, and the rain showed no signs of ceasing. Lin Zhaohe had concerns for Zhang Xiaoxiao, but all his calls went unanswered, with the phone continuously switched off.

On the following day, the most significant day of the funeral, the village chief arrived with his companions to deliver the black attire for the burial. Noticing the absence of one person inside the house, the village chief inquired, “Where’s the Xu boy?”

Lin Zhaohe made up a false story, “He’s too devastated, hiding in the house and sobbing.”

The village chief squinted at the response and murmured, “Young Xu has a conscience… Well, well.” His gaze lingered on Lin Zhaohe for a moment, “The burial procession starts at five o’clock tomorrow morning. You mustn’t delay the timing.”

Lin Zhaohe blinked his eyes but remained silent.

The village chief didn’t pay much attention and turned away, disappearing into the rain with his companions.

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