Safety Manual Labor Tips with a Twist of 2D Chapter 9

Chapter 9 Yushan Village

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Lin Zhaohe, dressed in a cozy teddy bear pajama set, quietly entered the restaurant to meet the client.

The client, a young man with a somewhat anxious demeanor, glanced at Lin Zhaohe’s attire and curiously asked, “Is he also a fan of anime?”

Qi Ming calmly responded, “No, he simply enjoys wearing pajamas.”

Lin Zhaohe: “?”

After a brief pause, the client calmly remarked, “Quite unique.”

Qi Ming agreed with a nod. “Indeed.”

Sensing a slight jab, Lin Zhaohe discreetly took a bite of the food on the table.

As Lin Zhaohe enjoyed his meal, Qi Ming and Zhang Xiaoxiao exchanged a few words to share some background information. Lin Zhaohe discovered that the client’s name was Xu Yuan, an unfortunate character in a locally produced horror film. Unfortunately, he played the lead role in the movie. But luckily, domestic horror films were known for their absence of actual ghosts, much like how wife cakes (lao po bing) contain no real wives.

The plot of the movie revolved around Xu Yuan’s sudden tragedy—losing both parents in a tragic event. Obliged to return to his hometown for funeral arrangements, Xu Yuan couldn’t help but feel that something was off. Gradually, a series of unsettling incidents convinced him that a curse had befallen him. Gripped by perpetual fear, he met a grim fate in the very place he once called home. Surprisingly, towards the movie’s climax, it was revealed that Xu Yuan’s demise was not the work of a supernatural entity, but rather the hands of an unexpected perpetrator…

The plot seemed conventional, and one might assume that knowing the storyline, Xu Yuan would easily escape the impending danger. However, his objectives extended beyond mere survival— he was determined to apprehend the individual responsible for his own death.

“When should we set off?” Xu Yuan’s face had grown pale, his long hair concealing his eyes. With veins visibly tracing his wan hands, he tightly clasped the coffee cup, resembling a fragile soul on the brink of madness.

“Tomorrow,” Qi Ming planned, “As soon as everything is prepared, we can depart without delay.”

“Where is this place?” Lin Zhaohe inquired, wondering about its distance.

“It’s a little over a five-hour drive. However, it falls within the B-level fusion zone, so we need to exercise caution,” Qi Ming explained. “I’ll inform our boss about your absence.”

“Okay.” Lin Zhaohe nodded.

The following morning was set as the designated time. Feeling too afraid to return home, Lin Zhaohe settled for a mediocre hotel to spend the night. Thankfully, today passed without any occurrence similar to the events of the previous night. With the break of dawn, Lin Zhaohe hastily made a trip back home and tidied up his belongings.

Notably, he couldn’t help but observe that the stain on the ceiling continued to expand, taking on an increasingly uncanny resemblance to a huddled figure. It sent a chilling sensation down the spines of those who saw it.

Refraining from lingering further, Lin Zhaohe swiftly scurried away without casting another glance.

Upon arriving at the workplace, Qi Ming awaited him in the parked car outside. As Lin Zhaohe finished packing his belongings, he opened the car door, only to be greeted by an unexpected face—their boss.

“Boss, what brings you here?!” Lin Zhaohe jumped in surprise.

“Nothing important,” Zhuang Lao casually responded. “Just passing the time…”

Lin Zhaohe pondered that it was no wonder the boss held such an enigmatic persona. He seemed to have a penchant for visiting the team without any apparent purpose.

“Come inside, Zhang Xiaoxiao and the others have already left,” Qi Ming gestured from the driver’s seat. “Hurry up.”

“Alright,” Lin Zhaohe responded, though he had initially planned to take the passenger seat. However, his boss silently indicated with a glance that he should sit beside him. Being an employee, Lin Zhaohe didn’t dare go against the unspoken directive, thus obediently settling in next to Zhuang Lao.

Qi Ming pressed on the accelerator, and the group set off on their journey.

Their destination was known as Yushan, once a renowned scenic spot. However, since the Great Fusion, it had transformed into a B-level fusion zone. These fusion zones were classified into ABCD categories, with A being the highest and B being the next level. The degree of fusion determined how closely the local architecture harmonized with the world of two-dimensional animations. In the B-level fusion zone they were headed to, the environment had undergone a significant departure from its original state.

Without relying on navigation, they followed Xu Yuan’s familiarity with the route. Qi Ming trailed behind Zhang Xiaoxiao’s car, as the group ventured towards a desolate area.

Seated in the back, Lin Zhaohe gazed absentmindedly at the passing scenery. Surprisingly, Zhuang Lao took the initiative to strike up a conversation, “Have you watched this movie?”

“No,” Lin Zhaohe honestly admitted, “Qi Ming gave me a brief overview of the plot.”

Zhuang Lao responded with a contemplative “Oh…” that carried a hint of significance.

Lin Zhaohe failed to comprehend the underlying implications and asked, “What about you, boss? Have you seen it?”

“Hmm,” Zhuang Lao responded, “I quite enjoy watching horror films.”

Lin Zhaohe: Appearances can be deceiving.

Zhuang Lao: “What genre do you think I prefer?”

Lin Zhaohe: “The growth of a capitalist, perhaps?”

Zhuang Luo: “…”

Qi Ming, seated at the wheel, couldn’t contain his laughter. He thought to himself that Lin Zhaohe’s way of speaking explained why he had to work overtime every day.

After two hours of driving, the scenery underwent continuous transformations, ultimately becoming increasingly desolate. The road narrowed, barely allowing a single car to pass through. After passing a suffocatingly dark tunnel, Qi Ming’s demeanor turned serious as he declared, “We’re almost there.”

Lin Zhaohe patted his trouser pocket and asked, “Did you guys bring any weapons?”

Zhuang Lao replied in a calm tone, “996 is my weapon.” Working from 9 am to 9 pm every day, six days a week.

Lin Zhaohe: “…”

Qing Ming: “…”

Together, they realized the true horror behind this “weapon.”

Zhuang Lao continued in a composed manner, “If 996 isn’t enough, then it becomes 007.”

Lin Zhaohe chuckled meekly, responding, “Boss, your sense of humor is quite amusing, haha.”

Zhuang Lao chuckled softly, causing a slight shiver to run down Lin Zhaohe’s spine.

Qi Ming, understanding the situation, swiftly parked the car and attentively took care of their boss’s luggage. Lin Zhaohe, being single, didn’t mind working overtime as he had no girlfriend waiting for him.

With the car parked, they all gathered at the village entrance.

Xu Yuan still appeared jittery, his gaze constantly darting around the surroundings. It didn’t seem like he was returning to handle funeral matters. Instead, he gave off the impression of someone causing mischief in this village.

“Let’s go,” Zhang Xiaoxiao said. “Let’s go inside. The village chief should be waiting for us at the entrance.” He seemed a bit nervous, likely having seen the original film, as his hands restlessly fidgeted in front of him.

Lin Zhaohe thought that since newbies lacked experiences, it was his role as a senior to guide them. Taking the lead, he walked straight into the village. However, as he ascended the slope, his steps abruptly halted.

The village, where a funeral should have been taking place, was instead adorned with vibrant decorations. Red lanterns and ornaments filled the scene, creating a lively atmosphere reminiscent of a New Year’s celebration.

However, amidst this festivity, an unsettling undertone seeped through. Lin Zhaohe carefully pondered the situation and realized that he hadn’t come across a single person. The narrow subdistrict could be seen at a glance, and every house had tightly shut doors, devoid of any signs of life. Instead, the roadside was filled with creepy paper figurines, adorned with heavy makeup, sending a chilling sensation down one’s spine.

While others who had seen the original film were mentally prepared, this was Lin Zhaohe’s first encounter. He couldn’t help but tremble as he expressed his concern, “Why are they like this?”

Qi Ming: “What do you mean?”

Lin Zhaohe: “Isn’t there a risk of fire with all this paper around?”

The silence from everyone conveyed their astonishment at Lin Zhaohe’s train of thought.

It was undeniable that the abundance of paper seemed prone to accidents.

With a strong sense of fire safety, Lin Zhaohe advised, “Let’s be mindful and avoid discarding cigarette butts carelessly.”

Zhang Xiaoxiao, who was nervously smoking, silently snuffed out his cigarette butt.

“My house is just ahead. Let’s go,” Xu Yuan said in a cold tone. “I don’t believe they can harm me this time. I will never trust them again, not anymore.” After saying these words, he revealed a strange smile and softly repeated, “I won’t trust anyone anymore, no one.”

Lin Zhaohe wasn’t surprised by Xu Yuan’s behavior. After all, he was the protagonist of a horror film. It was only natural for him to have a touch of neuroticism; otherwise, what would the audience find engaging?

Xu Yuan’s house lay just ahead. Leading the group, he guided them through the vibrant village subdistrict. Even though no one could be seen in the subdistrict, Lin Zhaohe couldn’t shake off the feeling that numerous eyes were fixated on them. Upon careful observation, he realized that the villagers seemed to be peering through their door cracks, silently watching the outsiders. The piercing gazes sent a chilling sensation down his spine.

Lin Zhaohe pondered that with such a distinctive village, it could have flourished and prospered if it had embraced tourism… 

Xu Yuan’s residence showcased decent conditions—a two-story courtyard adorned with a lofty locust tree. However, it stood in stark contrast to the vibrant red surroundings. White paper flowers hung within the courtyard, while yellow paper money scattered on the ground, evoking a subtle funeral ambiance.

Walking at the forefront, Zhang Xiaoxiao’s heart skipped a beat as soon as he pushed open the door. The dimly lit living room unveiled two crimson wooden coffins resting inside. Positioned before the coffins were two life-sized paper figurines, donning vivid makeup and dressed in real garments. The group froze at the doorway, their footsteps halted. Lin Zhaohe’s arm instantly erupted in goosebumps, and he swallowed hard before whispering, “When did your uncle and aunt pass away?”

“It happened two days ago,” Qi Ming clarified, “according to the village customs, the deceased must be kept at home for a week before their burial.”

Lin Zhaohe inquired, “Why is there such a rule?”

Qi Ming explained, “It’s quite common in many places. In the past, medical knowledge was limited, and there was a fear of prematurely cremating someone who might not have been entirely lifeless.”

Lin Zhaohe nodded. “That makes sense.”

Even though Xu Yuan’s parents had tragically passed away, one would expect him to be consumed by sorrow. However, it seemed as if Xu Yuan knew something about what lay ahead. His face remained devoid of grief, veering more towards indifference. He didn’t spare more than a passing glance at the two coffins, engrossed in his own thoughts as he ascended to the second floor, where he quickly assigned rooms to the group.

Lin Zhaohe was given a room at the far end of the second floor. It had remained unoccupied for quite some time, emanating a peculiar odor of decaying wood. After placing his luggage down, he opened the window, intending to catch a glimpse of the surrounding view. Unexpectedly, he heard the faint sound of two unfamiliar voices conversing downstairs.

Intrigued, Lin Zhaohe extended his neck, trying to listen more carefully.

“They’re back, they’re back, finally back,” a male voice said.

A female voice echoed, “They’re back, they’re back, finally back.”

The male voice chuckled, “Hehe, hehe, waited so long, waited so long… finally… back.”

The female voice burst into a high-pitched laugh, “Finally, I’ve been waiting, baby, my baby!”

The unsettling nature of their conversation made Lin Zhaohe furrow his brow as he listened. Just as he was about to eavesdrop further, Qi Ming’s voice called him from outside, abruptly ending the conversation. Lin Zhaohe leaned out but saw no one, except for two paper figurines stacked together in a corner of the courtyard.

Lin Zhaohe fixed his gaze on the paper figurines for a couple of minutes, pondering how the blend of reality and illusion was truly distinct. Within mere minutes of his arrival, the orchestration of illusions had already begun.

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