Illusions, Lies, Truth Volume 3: In the Name of God, Part One
Original novel in Chinese by: 御 我 (Yu Wo)
Chapter 3: Existence’s Bane, Part 3—The Society—translated by lucathia (proofread by Taffygirl13 & Trespasserby)
After walking out of the building, Lu Yang indicated to the two policemen standing on guard outside the building that they were done, letting them know they could call support to come and process the homicide scene.
Lu Yang briefly said, “The female student’s name is Li Yao, a math major. Her identity should be easy to look up, but there’s no way to find out who the murderer is. However, it should be a practitioner. My dad will support your investigation. When he’s not around and you need to be in this building, you must have at least three people present.”
Even if Qing Wei Gong had the ability to discover the identity of the practitioner, they could not bring the practitioner to justice. They still needed the police to find evidence. Only then could the practitioner be sentenced.
“Got it.” Hu Lican suddenly thought of something and said in embarrassment, “Xiao Yang, I don’t think I’ll be able to apply for a subsidy for you this time. This case is too big. I can’t go under the radar and get a subsidy using some other reason.”
Lu Yang rolled his eyes at him and said reluctantly, “You owe me hotpot next time!”
Hu Lican immediately agreed. He understood the price of practitioners very well. Hotpot was nothing. Even treating him to a buffet of king crabs would be well worth it!
Fang Da was already looking at them as if they were great masters.
Jiang Ziya rubbed his nose and avoided that gaze. This time, he really felt very guilty. If he hadn’t called out, things probably wouldn’t have become so complicated.
After that, the two of them walked straight to the building where they had classes. It wasn’t time for class yet, so they were the only ones in the classroom. Lu Yang pulled out the bag of breakfast from his backpack.
Jiang Ziya expressed difficulty in complying. Even though there hadn’t been a nauseous stench like the day before, it was someone they knew this time. The heaviness in his heart was no easier to accept than the stench, leaving him with no appetite at all.
Lu Yang took out a box and placed it on the table. With no room for refusal, he said, “Soft-boiled egg, salad, and boiled chicken. My dad knows exactly how to cook food so that we’d be able to stomach it after taking care of a case. After taking two bites, your appetite will return. You slept late last night and got up early today, and you still have classes later. You had best eat well.”
As a newbie, Jiang Ziya could only obediently follow orders. He picked up the box and began to eat. It was just like Lu Yang claimed; after taking two bites, he discovered that he really was hungry, and so he began to take larger bites.
Lu Yang then took out an insulated bottle and said, “Chicken soup. My grandma made it. Drink it later.”
Jiang Ziya gave it a glance. “Is this how you get by?”
Lu Yang shrugged and said, “I’ve always had a strong constitution. Do you believe that I can go three days without sleeping, and still be full of energy?”
“I believe you.” Jiang Ziya nodded. Ever since high school, he had witnessed Lu Yang’s stamina. Of course, he’d recently gotten to know it even better… He couldn’t help but ask, “Just how many cases do you take on in a single month?”
“Hm?” Lu Yang gulped down the boiled chicken meat and rubbed his chin as he said, “The number varies. But all the cases together, large or small, come out to be at least fifteen, I think?”
“That many?” Jiang Ziya was a bit shocked. Doesn’t that mean that every two days, you have to take care of a case that makes you unable to stomach your food?
“My gramps and dad even want me to accept more.” Lu Yang huffed, “They think I’m Superman!”
After complaining, he tore into the chicken salad.
Jiang Ziya quietly ate the chicken salad and chicken soup.
“Why aren’t you saying anything?” Lu Yang frowned. “I was at fault, picking the wrong mission from the start. This one wasn’t suitable for newcomers. It’s like I took you to fight the final boss right off the bat.”
Jiang Ziya shook his head and said, “No, I was wrong. I shouldn’t have randomly called out.”
Lu Yang shook his head and said, “You’re a newbie. Of course you’d make some mistakes. You just need to be more careful in the future, and it’s important to remember that when I’m not with you, you’d better remember to pretend those demons and ghosts don’t exist. Don’t provoke them!”
Even though he wasn’t being blamed, Jiang Ziya still felt troubled. He hadn’t thought that his call would actually turn Li Yao into a wrathful spirit. She was originally fine…
He asked worriedly, “Will Li Yao be okay?”
“She’s already dead. How would she be okay?”
Jiang Ziya stilled but quickly explained, “I mean her ghost.”
Lu Yang frowned. “I’ve said before that those aren’t really ‘ghosts.’ It actually depends on the person. There are some people who believe they’re illusions.”
Jiang Ziya frowned as he asked, “So ghosts are actually considered a type of illusory familiar?”
“In general, they would be considered as artifact demons.”
“Where’s the ‘artifact?’” Jiang Ziya was even more confused.
Lu Yang huffed, “Did you forget the corpse?”
Jiang Ziya came to a sudden realization. “So, ghosts are actually artifact demons?”
“Not necessarily.” Lu Yang explained in more detail, “Some ‘ghosts’ aren’t the result of homicide, so there wouldn’t even be a corpse. Instead, they would originate from rumors, such as Hanako-san of the Toilet. These belong to the illusory familiar type, although these kinds of spirits usually don’t cause much harm. At most, they just get seen by people, giving rise to some ghost stories.”
Jiang Ziya thought it over and asked, “Then, there’s an eighty to ninety percent chance that the ghosts from the school legends are illusory familiars?”
“No wonder you’re not against the school wonders investigation event,” Jiang Ziya mumbled. Then, he abruptly recalled something and said, “Oh, right, the legend behind the abandoned campus is that the building can have nine floors.”
“What!” Lu Yang froze and hurriedly asked, “Tell me the actual content?”
Jiang Ziya told him in detail what he had learned at the club. First, he told of the legend behind the abandoned campus. Then, he briefed about all the other school wonders in one go.
Lu Yang frowned and asked, “Have you been to any of those places before? Have you seen anything?”
“I’ve been to the Pond of Meditation several times, but there isn’t a wishing corpse there, just a mermaid that often leaps to the side of the bank to sunbathe. I’ve also been to the east-facing building of the Literature Department, but never exactly at midnight. I haven’t seen anyone jump off the building. I haven’t been to any of the other locations much.”
Lu Yang held his cell phone, briefly wrote a text describing the legend behind the abandoned building, and sent it directly to his father.
“Is the night investigation today?” Lu Yang said gravely, “Then, let’s get to the bottom of this tonight to prevent trouble in the future.”
“You’re not going to the abandoned campus tonight?”
“No, my dad will take over that side. He’s older, so Hu-gē will have an easier time passing him off as some sort of inspector or consultant to sneak him onto the scene. Even if anyone got suspicious, it’s not like he’s in the country often. On the other hand, I’m a student at this school. If a reporter found anything strange, they could easily discover my identity.”
At this time, the sound of a notification came from Lu Yang’s cell phone. His expression suddenly turned a bit odd.
“What is it?”
Lu Yang just turned his cell phone around to show Jiang Ziya. To his surprise, on the screen was written:
Master of Fate, God of the Eastern Sky, and Lord of the East wish to add you as a friend.
Jiang Ziya asked in confusion, “Don’t you already have Fu Jun’s number from a while back? Why haven’t you added him as a friend?”
Lu Yang rubbed his neck. As he added them, he said, “I’d only entered Fu Jun’s number. We didn’t exchange messaging info. I only exchanged numbers with him so it’d be easier to contact you. Before this, I didn’t even have the boss’s number, let alone this Si Ming person.”
Among the three, the most polite was evidently Si Ming, who sent a message immediately after getting added.
Master of Fate: Pleased to meet you.
Lu Yang sent a smiley face back and sighed, “I really wonder just who Jiu Ge are. Sigh, forget it, my gramps already told me not to provoke them. They’re truly a strange bunch.”
Jiang Ziya asked, “Jiu Ge refers to a group of gods. Did you know that?”
“Yup.” Lu Yang glanced at Jiang Ziya and said with a laugh, “Don’t tell me you actually believe that your boss is a god?”
“… What else should I believe? Si Ming can ferry away souls. Isn’t he some sort of death god?”
Lu Yang laughed. “What he does and what I do with Slay result in pretty much the same. Why aren’t you treating me like a god?”
Jiang Ziya was speechless. “How is that the same? She looked like she went to heaven.”
“I can also help Li Yao ‘ascend.’” Lu Yang said unhurriedly, “But I haven’t done that in a long time. The process is very troublesome, and the risk of failure is high. I’m not like Si Ming who can determine how they want to die, and I don’t have the ability to change my appearance. I only have Slay. Besides, do you really believe that was Li Yao’s spirit?”
“If that wasn’t a spirit, then what was it?” Even if it’s an illusory familiar or an artifact demon, it’s still a ghost, right? Jiang Ziya was a bit confused.
Lu Yang asked tentatively, “If you helped a spirit ‘ascend,’ then met him again for some unknown reason, and then used Slay to exterminate him, only to meet him again for a third time… Would you still believe that to be the person’s spirit?”
Jiang Ziya didn’t know whether it was a ghost, or whether it was a ghost that couldn’t be exterminated. It was really hard to determine.
“How did you deal with him in the end?”
Lu Yang honestly said, “I handed the case to Gramps. At the time, I didn’t have the capability of dealing with him.”
“What about now?”
Lu Yang thought it over. “I should be able to now. There are probably few ghosts that the current Slay can’t exterminate.”
All thanks to you. Lu Yang felt very conflicted, especially after having seen Jiang Ziya try to grab Slay today. He had a feeling that sooner or later, it would become possible.
“Oh, that’s good then.” Jiang Ziya nodded.
Lu Yang asked in curiosity, “What’s good?”
“We’ll have a good night investigation.”
Lu Yang arrived at the club’s location for the first time as a member of the Supernatural Phenomena Studies Society and had no comments about the walls mottled like those of a ghost house.
Unexpectedly, Lin Zhixiang was actually present as well. Jiang Ziya had thought that she wouldn’t attend anymore. Her initial reason for joining the club had just been a desire to figure out whether or not unexplainable happenings truly existed in this world, and using that to clarify what in the world her existence’s bane’s natal chart truly was.
“Hello.” Lin Zhixiang looked at Lu Yang a bit nervously. She hadn’t seen him when she went to Qing Wei Gong in the morning, but she kept hearing from the elders about a “Xiao Yang.” Even though they hadn’t brought up anything substantial, she could tell that this “Xiao Yang” was nothing to sneeze at.
When he saw Lin Zhixiang, Lu Yang frowned. He had already told Jiang Ziya not to mention what happened to Li Yao for now. They should complete tonight’s night venture before bringing it up to prevent something else from happening. However, the latest they would be able to put it off would just be until tomorrow, as Lin Zhixiang was likely to hear about it.
A female student had died in the abandoned building, and eight people had actually died in the same building within a single year. This case was too large; the mass media would definitely report on it. It was already no easy feat for the police to keep it under wraps for a day.
Another person close to her had died. It was going to get even harder for Lin Zhixiang to believe that she was no longer the bane of all existence.
Jiang Ziya also saw Jian Zhi and his angel. The moment Jian Zhi saw Lin Zhixiang greet Lu Yang, he immediately stared at Lu Yang as if he had seen a great rival. The angel floating behind him was even holding a small bow with a red heart as the arrowhead.
Can I please request Jian Zhi to just confess to Lin Zhixiang already! Jiang Ziya felt that this situation was really frustrating. Isn’t Lin Zhixiang too oblivious? Everyone can tell that Jian Zhi likes her. She’s the only one who hasn’t noticed—then again, if I were foretold to be the bane of all existence, I probably wouldn’t care about a small matter like someone having a crush on me.
“Welcome, new member.” Xu Xikai walked over.
Following his response to the club’s location, Lu Yang similarly had no comments in regards to this pale club president who looked like a ghost. He then took another look at the scarce ten or so club members around him. Every single one of them was a bit odd. There was someone who was wearing a whole bunch of crosses around the neck, someone whose hand gripped a Buddha statue, and even someone who had plastered a bunch of charms over a bag—Hey, you do know that one of the charms is for giving birth successfully, right?
Lu Yang’s head hurt a lot. Just how bad is Jiang Ziya at choosing a club? You can’t make a worse choice even if you rolled dice to determine it!
Xu Xikai counted the people present and nodded as he said, “Twelve people. That’s everyone. Let’s pay our respects or say our prayers first. Then, we’ll go to the Literature Department’s east-facing classroom. We have a time constraint with having to be there at twelve o’clock sharp, so it’s the first location.”
Only twelve? Jiang Ziya looked at the number of people there. Indeed, there were fewer now than on recruitment day. Looks like not everyone wants to participate in this kind of event.
Some of them made offerings, some of them prayed, and some of them recited sutras. In some ways, it really was a harmonious gathering of religions.
Lu Yang lit up incense with one fluid motion and handed some to Jiang Ziya. Then, facing the incense burner, he recited scriptures and bowed to give his respects. After that, he walked forward to place the incense. His actions were both respectful and graceful. No one could resist looking over. Jian Zhi was also staring with wide eyes, unable to even muster up any jealousy. He said, stupefied, “How can you make paying your respects look so majestic?”
“How is it majestic?” Lu Yang said smilingly, “It’s just that the actions are practiced.”
His family runs a temple. How can he not know how to light incense? Jiang Ziya retorted to himself. Then, he bowed and paid his respects, thinking to hand the incense to Lu Yang so he could place the incense while he was at it, yet he was actually turned down.
“Place it yourself.” Lu Yang rolled his eyes at him. “Placing the incense is also part of the procedure.”
Jiang Ziya gave an “oh” and obediently walked forward to place the incense himself.
Xu Xikai watched with great interest and sighed, “I didn’t know that paying your respects is also an art. In the future, I will remember to place the incense myself.”
Lu Yang glanced at the other person but didn’t want to respond. He had never liked to reveal that his family ran a temple. In the past, even Jiang Ziya hadn’t known about it.
Xu Xikai reminded once more, “Everyone, remember to never ever use anyone’s name during this entire venture.”
After everyone responded, he then declared, “Let’s depart.”
They walked through the school in the middle of the night, extremely unaccustomed to this kind of silence.
“The school in the middle of the night really makes me uneasy.”
Someone muttered that, and everyone else showed agreement on their faces.
“It feels so grim, like something might appear each time we turn a corner.”
“I know, right!”
Even though that was what they said, after having the silence broken, their moods were no longer as tense, and they began to chat normally.
Jiang Ziya once again felt there was no need to feel uneasy at all, as Jian Zhi’s angel was too eye-catching. With such a huge glowing entity around, how could it feel grim at all? He would never go with Jian Zhi to a scary movie, even though he never watched them anyway. Reality was scary enough, so there was no need to spend two hundred something yuan to seek something scary at the movies—it wouldn’t be scarier than reality in any case.
Jiang Ziya lowered his voice and asked Lu Yang, “Can you see Jian Zhi’s guardian spirit?”
Lu Yang gave a “yeah” and said, “I see a bunch of light.”
“It’s an angel.”
“Ah, my dad would love that. Guardian spirits are becoming rare. Most people nowadays don’t believe in them anymore, especially divine types of guardian spirits like angels. Most can only be found by the sides of super duper religious people.”
Jiang Ziya asked curiously, “Then, why haven’t I seen an angel behind your dad? Isn’t an exorcist a religious person?”
Who knew what Lu Yang thought of, but he laughed and said, “Don’t worry, you’ll see sooner or later.”
I’d rather not. Jiang Ziya felt that this guy’s smile was too mischievous. He must be waiting for Jiang Ziya to make a fool of himself.
“Then, what about your guardian spirit?” Jiang Ziya even glanced behind Lu Yang in curiosity. Of course, there was nothing there. After all these years of acquaintance, if Lu Yang had one, he would have seen it already.
Lu Yang looked at his friend as if he were looking at an idiot. He suddenly felt that he had made friends with a moron. Is it too late to break off our friendship?
“Should I summon Slay and have him turn nine times nine times to remind you?”
“… No need.” Jiang Ziya abruptly felt that he was too stupid. He quickly said, “I thought that guardian spirits were all humanoid or animals.”
Lu Yang rolled his eyes at him, but seeing how Jiang Ziya only had a smattering of knowledge, he still gave in and explained, “You don’t have to think of it in such complicated terms. Guardian spirit is just one way to call them. It mostly refers to the spirits that stay by a person’s side for a lengthy time.”
When he heard that, Jiang Ziya also wanted to ask why he didn’t have a guardian spirit. But after thinking it over, he realized that almost no one present had a guardian spirit, so it wasn’t weird if he didn’t have one. So, he didn’t ask.
As the crowd chatted quietly in both excitement and nervousness, they finally arrived at the Literature Department’s east-facing classrooms. Xu Xikai used a key to open one of the classrooms and led everyone inside.
Xu Xikai said helplessly, “Since the legend doesn’t specify which classroom it is, I just asked for permission for the classroom with the largest window.”
Lu Yang asked, “Where did these legends come from?”
Xu Xikai explained, “Some of them are tales that have been passed around for a long time. Some of them are rumors spread by word of mouth among the students. It’s nearly impossible to figure out the source.”
Lu Yang frowned. “I don’t believe I have heard of these school wonders before.”
Jiang Ziya hadn’t heard of them before either, but he felt that it was very normal that he hadn’t. To a student who had to work part-time and who was on a scholarship, looking into where he could work at school was much more useful than looking into school wonders.
“I bet you don’t frequent the school’s message boards much?”
Lu Yang shrugged and admitted, “I don’t even have an account.”
“That’s why then. A lot of these tales have been passed around on the message boards.”
Lu Yang nodded to show his understanding.
Seeing that he had no more questions, Xu Xikai turned toward everyone and said, “Let’s begin preparations. We only have twelve minutes left.”
Following that, they began to set up all sorts of camcorders. The club’s newcomer duo had nothing to do, so they chilled by the side. Lin Zhixiang looked at the duo, as if she really wanted to join them but was afraid that she wouldn’t be welcome.
Lu Yang waved her over, and she immediately walked up to them, without a care that she appeared just like a lovesick fool who was crushing on Lu Yang.
“Let’s exchange phone numbers.” Lu Yang took out his cell phone.
Lin Zhixiang froze, but when she looked at Lu Yang’s expression, she understood that this had nothing to do with hitting on her. It was most likely purely because of her natal chart. She hesitated for a moment, but when she recalled going to Qing Wei Gong and hearing the inadvertent praise from the elders whenever they brought up “Xiao Yang,” she finally handed over the cell phone number that practically no one knew.
As the two of them exchanged numbers, Jiang Ziya glanced toward Jian Zhi, who had let his head drop, and even the angel behind him was depressed with a drooped head, cupid bow vanishing without a trace.
All right, against a love rival like Lu Yang with his mixed-blood and model looks, it is indeed very easy to give up on life.
Jiang Ziya gave it some thought and felt that it might not be a bad thing for Jian Zhi to give up on her. Before Lin Zhixiang solved her misfortune of being existence’s bane, she probably wouldn’t dare to fall in love at all. Besides, Lu Yang had said that this matter might take a long time…
Jiang Ziya clapped Jian Zhi on the shoulder. For the sake of your life, you should switch to a different girl.
Great minds really did think alike, as Jian Zhi lifted his head and looked at Jiang Ziya to resolutely say, “No!”
Jiang Ziya lifted an eyebrow. He hadn’t thought that Jian Zhi, with his timid personality, would be so determined in the face of an expert-leveled rival like Lu Yang. He must really like Lin Zhixiang.
“Ten minutes left. Please take your positions.”
Lu Yang walked over to Jiang Ziya’s side and was even glared at by Jian Zhi several times. He looked at him in confusion. Only then did Jian Zhi avert his gaze.
Lu Yang looked toward Jiang Ziya in confusion. Your lips twitched several times. Don’t think I haven’t noticed!
“Look at the window. What are you looking at me for?” Jiang Ziya said, trying not to laugh.
When he heard that, in addition to how Jian Zhi and Lin Zhixiang had more or less both taken notice of them, Lu Yang could only look toward the window. Other than the ten or so club members present, there were also camcorders, cameras, and even infrared cameras. Their equipment was exhaustive.
However, Lu Yang didn’t feel they would be of much use. They couldn’t compare to Jiang Ziya’s naked eye.
“Five minutes left. Please remain quiet following this.”
As time passed second by second, everyone waited with bated breath.
At last came the final countdown. Ten, nine, eight…
It was twelve o’clock sharp.