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Chapter 19

Plague Doctor
     Chapter 19: Annotations on the Anatomical Reference

    Larbre Studio  Larbre Studio

    A figure on a bicycle flashed by along the pavements from the Dissection Building back to the dormitories. He bolted straight up the stairs and into his room without stopping. In one swift motion, he grabbed the water jug on the table and downed its contents in one huge gulp.

    The water had not been changed for days. With every gulp, the slight hint of staleness was accentuated. However, for a man who was utterly exhausted like Gu Jun, it was still a blessing.

    Looking at his table, everything was the same as he arranged it 3 days ago. The order and position of the books and items were all intact. No one had barged in or flipped through his things in the past 3 days. As for Li Yuerui's handphone, he had brought it along at all times.

    "Phew…" Taking a seat by his desk, Gu Jun could feel his muscles exclaiming in gratefulness. He opened the system in his mind and examined his new condition.

    [Opening Host's Abilities List: 1 Type

    Hands of Dexterity

    Rarity: ★ (From Lowest to Highest, 1★ to 10★)

    

    Cultivation Potential: 3rd Tier

    Host's Ability Tier: 2nd Tier (0/30000 Proficiency).]

    Finally! 2nd Tier at last!

    In the past 3 days, Gu Jun had realised that while he only needed another 500 Proficiency to upgrade the Hands of Dexterity, it was excruciatingly painful to gain those points. He had spent more than half a day dissecting the malformed cadaver, yet not even a 100 proficiency was awarded. This was much less than the intravenous infusion needle injection practice that he had done.

    Looks like proficiency does not have a proportional increase. It's exponential. Basically, the more familiar I am with the technique, the harder it is to refine the technique. The last 100 proficiencies of this tier would probably be harder than the previous thousands.

    3

    Looking down at his own hands, Gu Jun stretched them a little. Having worn the surgical gloves non-stop for the past 72 hours, the sudden freedom of movement was slightly strange to him.

    2nd Tier Hands of Dexterity, it was indeed a different feeling.

    Every single nerve on his hands was prominent to him now.

    This is the anterior interosseous nerve...

    As the thought popped in his head, his right thumb slightly fidgeted.

    The ulnar nerve…

    Then, his right arm pinky slightly jumped.

    While he could not place full control over his movements yet, the potential was undeniable. The intricate and delicate movements had been heightened to a level that was not possible before the breakthrough.

    1

    This pair of hands could now execute highly precise procedures, be it during dissection or surgery.

    1

    "Gosh, this makes the horrific pains of the past few days worth it!" Looking at his hands, the corner of Gu Jun's lips curled up. If the 2nd tier was already this monstrous, he could not imagine the massive benefits the 3rd Tier would bring.

    I could possibly become the man with the world's most muscular fingers!

    9

    Sniggering at his own inconceivable thought, Gu Jun closed the abilities list and opened the missions log. The same system notification was left on until now, as though he was keeping the most delicious fried chicken thigh till the end of his meals.

    [Missions Rewards Uncollected: Incomplete Anatomical Reference x 1, tap to collect your reward

    This time, the system seemed to be quite intelligent. Knowing that Gu Jun was within sight of the crowd just now. It did not send the map directly to his pocket. Could that be true?

    Anyways, this was the reward for the first difficult task! In his mind, Gu Jun tapped the collection promptly.

    "Collected successfully!"

    Suddenly, a violent wave of pain crashed into his head, and a ray of light blinded him out of nowhere. Barely opening his eyes, he found himself suspended above the ocean of his consciousness.

    There, he saw his reward.

    "Oh, the structure was not a hardcopy piece, but a "digital" one. Okay, more comfortable to carry with me anyway."

    In his mind, he attempted to view it. It was a somewhat awkward maneuver, but still doable. After he locked onto it from the other memories within his sea of consciousness, he made it more substantial and zoomed in as much as possible.

    Slowly, the image became more explicit. It was like an atlas, drawn onto slightly yellowed parchment of the size of an A4 paper. Its age was evident on the torn and tattered edges. There were even parts where holes were seen. The messy mottle making it look freshly excavated from the depths of the mantle.

    There was only 1 image drawn on this parchment. Even non-medically trained people could tell. It was the mapping of a human's anatomy. It held a semblance to the front view of the chest region of a human, but uncertainty loomed in his mind.

    Gu Jun was exceptionally familiar with the human chest. However, the structure that was drawn on this parchment… Something was not quite right. Oddly, it looked like a chest of a primate, but some areas pointed to him otherwise. Did primates have a bone that looked like a chest plate?

    "A lamellar bone," muttering under his breath, Gu Jun's eyes examined the diamond-shaped bone. It was covered and directly connected to the costal bone behind.

    His brows frowned in confusion of this unprecedented sight. The annotations of the diagrams were written in the same mysterious language. This foreign language was written by hand, comparatively slip-shot to the precise and neat printing on the foreign medication box.

    Suddenly, eureka struck. "This front view of the chest is also hand-drawn!"

    That's right. The lines weren't perfectly straight. Some were even slightly angled. What's more…

    Gu Jun found that this reference diagram was not drawn in a peaceful and conducive environment. It was more likely to be drawn in a chaotic and perilous situation. Hence, the lines were rushed and frantic.

    Following the annotations, he identified the bones. He first read the text pointing to the "Lamellar Bone". He then read the text of several other bones, and found that they were composed of two parts. What does this mean?

    *Author mixed the use of English and Chinese in the following sections. Chinese characters would be bolded and italicised. English words would be bolded*

    4

    Like the two concepts of costal bone and breast bone, Chinese is "Rib Bone" and "Breast Bone", English is "costal bone" and "breastbone".

    There was a character repeated in both cases, "bone". Where "bone" means bone.

    These bones are the same characters on the foreign text written... Did they also hold the same meaning of bones?

    As Gu Jun looked, he realized that they had the same meaning! As he deciphered his first word, he felt relief in his heart.

    Thank gods that the human mental process can understand this language. If I can understand it, I can find my answers.

    He continued to decrypt this mysterious language and successively identified three characters holding the three concepts of "muscle", "nerve", and "chest" from the 19 annotations. He found out that just as "chest" and "muscle" share the same radical in Chinese, these four different characters in this language have identical parts in their word form.

    "Bones, muscles, nerves, chest... Maybe this shared part is related to the human body? Or is it life?"

    5

    Gu Jun thought hard. After all, he was a great linguistics layman. He didn't understand even if he read the information on the internet, but he didn't know any friend who was a reliable linguist.

    I finally found a breakthrough in understanding this foreign language.

    He looked at some annotations written below the diagram again. There were ten lines of fine print with hundreds of words.

    There was something peculiar that stood out. The words in the last four lines were exactly the same, and the same symbols after the sentence were identical. This symbol was just like ! or ? that followed modern languages. Perhaps, this may be punctuation marks for this language. Analysing further, Gu Jun felt that it was either an exclamation mark or a question mark.

    1

    What's more, the sentence has repeated a total of 4 times.

    Seems like the author of this anatomical reference was highly emotional as he was drawing it…

    Gu Jun dived deep in thought, "What does this annotation mean?" As he continued examining the trembling handwriting, the shock, fear, and anxiety it exuded became very prominent.

    Perhaps these notes held the most significant value in comparison to everything else on the reference sheet. It contained critical information that could unravel the actual value and meaning of this whole thing.

    Alas, he really can't understand it. The more he read, the more physically and mentally tired he became.

    "Argh! I can't figure out anything like this. Time to go to bed! Get my energy up, and then I'll compare the foreign words on the pillbox with this."

    Gu Jun rubbed his red and sore eyes, got up, and washed his face using the basin on the balcony. He didn't want to take a bath, so he climbed onto his bed immediately and laid down. The moment he closed his heavy eyelids, reality slipped into a dense grey mist.

    A pin-drop silence enveloped him.

    Slowly, the vision cleared. A large withered tree with a thick, sturdy trunk appeared. On its top, numerous branches sprawled out messily, snaking through the grey mist like cracks. Oddly, there were no leaves, just some rotting vines snaking down the branches. Looking around, GJ realised that even the slight breeze seemed to be dyed grey.

    5

    A rustle then caught his attention. By the withered tree, something seemed to be moving.

    It was a small, frail child. With his thin weak hands and legs, he frantically held unto the tree and climbed up with all his strength.

    1

    Then, a thick mist shrouded Gu Jun's vision again, pulling the child and the tree further and further away into the distance.

    Moments later, he was at the foot of the withered tree. Here, it was also a sea of grey. On the ground, bodies and rotting corpses were strewn all over. Messy as it might seem, it somewhat formed an organised pattern. Gu Jun could not see their faces, but their limbs, both hands and legs, were all twisted into a malformation.

    Suddenly, a figure fell from the withered tree. It was that frail child. He had tried his best and used up all his energy. Alas, he still couldn't hold on to the increasingly rugged and curved trunk. With a slip of hand, he fell.

    The child seemed to be screaming in fear, but not a sound landed in Gu Jun's ear.

    BOOM!

    A loud crash resounded and smashed through the deafening silence. This time, Gu Jun heard it loud and clear. The child fell on the ground with a loud thud. Upon impact, his blood burst forth, staining the dull grey soil crimson red. The pale, tender face was distorted by the horror. His eyes had widened, but there was not a sign of life left.

    Gu Jun had seen this face before. The same face within the mortuary of the Dissection Building.

    The face of the child with two malformed hands lying in the pool of formalin.