Illusions, Lies, Truth Volume 4: In the Name of God, Part Two
Original novel in Chinese by: 御 我 (Yu Wo)
Chapter 2: Xiang Shui Pan, Part 1—From Liuqing to Tea to Coffee Today—translated by lucathia (proofread by Lala Su & Trespasserby)
“Yu Shu says that her hair hurts today, so she can’t come.”
Jiang Ziya held his cell phone up to show everyone. They could only bark with laughter at such a reason.
Liu Yishi wasn’t frustrated, and smilingly said, “Please reply to her and say that I can give her two certificates from the church guaranteeing no harm to her two familiars. Practitioners will refrain from harming them on behalf of the church.”
Jiang Ziya was shocked. You can do that?
“The church is actually willing to protect familiars?”
Lu Yang helplessly said, “Of course not. It will just be my dad’s written promise.”
Jiang Ziya scrunched up his face at that and said, “Do we have to trick Yu Shu?” If she found them out, his neighbor would instantly transform into the demon king!
He hadn’t forgotten how Yu Shu had cleaved a cargo container in half the last time with a single strike. Even though she had flown off right after, claiming that she had used up her powers, she had actually cleaved it in half. It wasn’t some illusion!
Jiang Ziya felt that he shouldn’t rile up a woman who could cleave a cargo container with a sword.
“My dad will stamp it.” Lu Yang honestly admitted, “It will still have some use, at least on the western side. It likely won’t be very useful in Taiwan currently, but if I stamp it too, then there won’t be any problems.”
Liu Yishi, who couldn’t compare to his son in Taiwan, felt as if his heart had been stabbed.
“You’re willing to stamp it?”
Jiang Ziya was a bit surprised. Lu Yang had clearly been against Xiao Xue and House Keeper. He kept saying that he was going to burn them, yet now he had changed his tune and was willing to protect House Keeper and Hold Keeper, these two illusory familiars.
Lu Yang sighed and honestly divulged, “Last time, one of them saved me. This time, both of them saved a whole bunch of classmates together. Do you really think I have a heart of stone? I was just worried that they’d endanger you.”
Hearing this, classmate Jiang Ziya felt particularly sorry for classmate Lu Yang—as if! Just which one of us was saved by illusory familiars?
He lowered his head and sent over Liu Yishi’s message. After receiving a reply, he lifted his head and said, “She said, ‘You won. I’ll be there ASAP.’”
“Then, let us hurry to the meeting location.”
After saying that, Liu Yishi looked at Hu Lican with an apologetic smile. That location was one where they could not bring the police squad captain. Well, perhaps it was more accurate to say that he could go, but not as an invited participant.
Hu Lican immediately said, “I’ll meet up with my fellow policemen who are on campus first and take a look at the three homicide locations. I’ll wait for news from you guys for everything else.”
He had already dismissed the other policemen before this. They had really had too much excitement today. All Hu Lican could do was have his comrades hurry home to wash up and sleep. It was best to follow what Lu Yang always said. After a bit of time passed, witnesses would come up with their own logical reasons to explain things, such as thinking of it as a particularly scary movie they had seen.
Otherwise, Hu Lican felt he was soon going to have no comrades anymore.
“I am very sorry I was unable to prevent the culprit from committing this crime.” Liu Yishi quietly said, “I did not expect that he would be so daring. Now that we know, we also know how to proceed. Please do not worry.”
Hu Lican shivered and quickly nodded. He hurriedly left to return to the real word to do realistic stuff, such as investigating a homicide.
Lu Yang and Jiang Ziya’s hearts were both heavy at the mention of those three homicides, especially Lu Yang. He hadn’t expected that a mere night venture would get so serious that homicides would occur. He had not been careful enough from the start. Since homicides had occurred at the abandoned campus, he had joined the night venture out of curiosity about the Seven Wonders.
“Don’t think too much about it.” Liu Yishi patted his son on the shoulder. “The culprit deliberately targeted your inattention. It’s unavoidable that he caught you unaware. Let’s meet up first. I believe ‘that person’ should be able to provide us with a lot of answers.”
Lu Yang nodded. Even though he felt guilty, he had been taking on missions for a long time already, and failure wasn’t anything new. He wouldn’t succumb to guilt and be unable to continue.
However, Jiang Ziya was a newbie. When he thought of the three classmates and how they had lost their lives just like that, he still felt very troubled. He didn’t know two of the victims very well, but Jian Zhi was the one who had invited him to join the club. He really couldn’t easily recover from seeing someone he had known end up in such a terrible state that even the angel guarding Jian Zhi had become so frightening.
A taxi was waiting outside of the university. Once the three of them got in, the driver didn’t even turn his head as he greeted them.
“Long time no see, Mr. Liu.”
Liu Yishi smiled faintly. “Long time no see, Mr. Driver. Please take us to Xiang Shui Pan.”1
Lu Yang introduced, “This is Mr. Driver, who has worked with us for a long time. You can call him Driver.”
After he finished speaking, he then told Driver, “You don’t need to pretend to be a quiet driver. Jiang Ziya is my assistant. Give him a business card so he can call you for your services in the future, too.”
A taxi driver that they know? Jiang Ziya was a little surprised. He couldn’t help but take a peek at the person in the front, who looked like a normal guy about twenty years old. He didn’t look like he was old enough to have “worked with them for a long time,” especially given how he even knew Liu Yishi. According to Lu Yang, his dad hadn’t been very active in Taiwan for more than ten years.
As Jiang Ziya secretly made his observations, Driver’s head abruptly turned one hundred and eighty degrees, and Driver stared directly at him.
“So you’re Mr. Assistant! My bad, my bad!” Driver smiled widely. In addition to how he had abruptly turned his head and scared him without any warning, he seemed pretty flippant in personality.
“Um, hello, I’m Jiang Ziya.”
Fortunately, after an entire night of chaos, Jiang Ziya’s reaction was a bit slow. At the moment, he was only thinking: The car is already moving, and your head is still backwards. Is that okay?
“This is my business card. Please make use of this one’s humble services.”
You even stuck a hand out to give me a card! Can you focus on driving?
Jiang Ziya snuck a glance at Lu Yang, wanting him to remind Driver, but Lu Yang had his head bowed and was looking at his cell phone. What was displayed on his screen was the webpage with the video that Yu Shu had sent over. He was clearly focusing on business, so Jiang Ziya didn’t dare to disrupt him. He could only quickly take the business card and hope that Driver would focus on driving!
After he took the business card, Jiang Ziya lowered his head to look at it. Only “Driver” and a phone number were written on it.
Jiang Ziya felt that this naming sense could give Yu Shu a run for her money.
Fortunately, Driver’s driving skills were completely different from his flippant personality and his naming sense. His driving was smooth, and he followed traffic laws obediently. His speed was even a little slow. He was obediently following the speed limit.
Jiang Ziya relaxed. He had really been afraid that Driver would act out a speeding scene, as if they were running for their lives. They weren’t in a hurry at the moment, so there was no need to give his heart a test.
Lu Yang frowned and said, “I asked someone to look up the IP addresses, but we were unable to figure out the location of ‘It Has Begun.’ He was prepared for it. We even looked up the IPs of the people who were talking back against Yu Shu. We couldn’t determine the locations of those either. These people are probably all in on it, or they’re all the same person, that ‘It Has Begun.’”
“Investigate the people in the society.” Liu Yishi reminded from the front seat, “The club’s activity of investigating the Seven Wonders came from that society. They likely have a huge connection.”
This reminder made Lu Yang recall how the medical students had told him about the legend behind the anatomical model. The legend they knew only had the anatomical model chasing after someone, and you would only need to run around the medical department once to escape. No lives were involved.
Then, did this mean that the other legends had also been warped?
Lu Yang immediately began searching about the true legends, yet the results he got were all the bloody versions from the society. Even the anatomical model of the medical department was no exception. He only found one where no one died, and it was the legend behind the Pond of Meditation.
If you threw a coin into the Pond of Meditation and made a wish, and did this for an entire year, your wish would come true.
There was absolutely no mention of corpses. Even though the content of this legend was completely different from the Pond of Meditation’s wishing corpse, Lu Yang felt that this should be the original legend behind the Pond of Meditation. People often tossed coins into ponds. It wasn’t strange for a legend to arise about making wishes.
But now, it didn’t matter anymore which was the real version. Everyone’s memory would only hold the new, bloody version. Violent matters always had more impact and were easier to remember. Now, with homicides involved, these Seven Wonders were probably going to become infamous. This is terrible!
“How’s your research going?” Jiang Ziya asked in concern.
Lu Yang’s head hurt as he replied, “No matter whether the Seven Wonders are real or not, they will all replace the original legends and become our university’s Seven Wonders. What bites is that the content all leads to death, and fearless students will definitely want to test them out with no care for their safety.”
Jiang Ziya paled and blurted, “Don’t tell me that someone will die every time?”
“No.” Liu Yishi explained, “This time, it’s because the opponent created a powerful barrier dimension and forced you to step in without any preparation whatsoever. For the sake of solving this case, I also entered the barrier dimension through the pathway. We are all practitioners. It is easier for us to enter barrier dimensions compared to normal people. Now that we are aware, it is not so easy to make us fall for it again, while normal people won’t easily end up in a barrier dimension.”
Lu Yang suddenly said, “If all seven result in homicides, creating a huge uproar, and more and more people believe in these legends, then would it become easier for normal people to enter the barrier dimension? If so, once they end up in the barrier dimension, new deaths might occur.”
Then, more and more people would believe in it, and it would become even easier to enter the barrier dimension. It was a vicious cycle that they couldn’t break free of.
Hearing that, Liu Yishi’s face darkened.
“I will contact Hu Lican to see if they have any way of destroying some of the legends, such as filling in the Pond of Meditation.”
“Won’t destroying them make them even more believable?”
If it were Jiang Ziya, he would grow more suspicious about it. Right after a homicide, the pond gets filled up. If the case involved drowning, sure, it would make sense to fill the pond up, but the Pond of Meditation was so shallow that no one could drown in it! It would be obvious that something was wrong about the entire case.
Jiang Ziya was indeed right. If there were only one legend involved, they could just fill in the pond. However, there were seven of them, and it wasn’t like they could destroy them all. That would truly be quite the cover up. Besides, there were some that they couldn’t destroy, such as the smiling student falling past the window. It wasn’t like they could demolish the entire building.
Liu Yishi and Lu Yang both frowned. They could seal off the scene, but everyone knew that sealing it off would make some people want to sneak in even more. Not just students, but even reporters would want to investigate!
“We’ve arrived at Xiang Shui Pan!” Driver pointed out with a smile.
Jiang Ziya glanced at Driver. Before Lu Yang mentioned that Jiang Ziya was his assistant, Driver had no expression, appearing just like a solemn taxi driver. But after Lu Yang told him, Driver’s face turned into a smiling one, and he hadn’t stopped smiling since. He smiled so much that I’m getting goose bumps!
“I’m going to stop thinking!” Lu Yang said in frustration, got out of the car, and shouted, “Let’s head in and hear what your boss has to say first! If he can’t convince me, he better be aware of my Slay!”
Seeing that Lu Yang was actually addressing him, Jiang Ziya was utterly confused.
“Huh? You mean my boss? Fu Taiyi? What does this have to do with him?”
Liu Yishi smiled and said, “We met him in the barrier dimension at the abandoned campus. We even came to an agreement.”
So, coming to the coffee shop wasn’t specifically to meet Yu Shu? Jiang Ziya suddenly felt that things were very wrong. Why did Boss go to the barrier dimension at the abandoned campus?
Wait, don’t tell me he’s the mastermind behind this entire case?!
Lu Yang replied with an ugly face, “As long as we don’t kill that ‘Li Yao,’ he’ll lead us out of the barrier dimension. I thought that you and those classmates were in danger and we couldn’t dally any further, so I agreed.”
“But I also had a condition, and that was for us to meet somewhere for more information.”
Liu Yishi smilingly raised his index finger and pointed at the store next to them. The sign was written in golden characters with an aged appearance. As Jiang Ziya majored in foreign languages and not Chinese, you had to excuse him for not recognizing these words. They almost looked more like pictures than words.
Given how the sign couldn’t even be read, this store couldn’t be doing well in business, right?
But they were clearly still in business.
“Xiang Shui Pan.” Liu Yishi lifted his head and looked at the sign. “This name truly fits Jiu Ge. Even the font is from the Chunqiu period from the scripts of the six states.”
“You can read writing from the Chunqiu period?”2
Jiang Ziya was impressed. Then, he recalled information that he had previously researched. Jiu Ge did indeed have two legends among them that had to do with the word “xiang”—Wait a minute, come to think of it, Boss has a friend that often comes to the store, and the friend’s name includes the word “xiang”!
Lu Yang exposed his father without any hesitation, “How is it possible for my dad to recognize these words? He knows because I just sent him the information on the net that I found.”
“Neither of you can read the words, so how do you expect a foreigner to read it?”
Liu Yishi didn’t feel awkward being exposed. He followed the two youngsters out of the car and walked up to the door. He praised, “This coffee smells divine.”
“Thank you for your praise.”
A woman slowly pushed the door open and walked out. Even though her age was difficult to determine, she did seem like she was probably around thirty. She was rather graceful, with a classical demeanor. She wore loose, oriental attire with a long dress. Her lilac colored outfit had a few lotuses embroidered on it. With her hair held up by a hair stick, her entire person gave off a classical feel.
“Chen-yí!”3 Jiang Ziya blurted. He was too familiar with this woman before them. She was the boss’s friend, Chen Xiang!
Even though she was such a classical lady, she read all sorts genres. Even if it were manhua or light novels that youngsters liked, she read them all. As a result, she was a frequent customer at the bookstore. Jiang Ziya often ordered and held books for her.
“Sigh!” Chen Xiang responded with a smile. She looked at Jiang Ziya and said with worry, “Ziya, this is the first time you have visited my store, right? You better let Chen-yí serve you well. Just look at you. You got skinnier again!”
Uh, Chen-yí nearly always says I’ve gotten skinnier each time she visits the bookstore. Jiang Ziya really doubted that he got skinnier every time. If that was the case, he would be all bones by now!
“Come on in.” Chen Xiang smiled at the other two customers and straightforwardly said, “Taiyi has already arrived. He is waiting for you in a private booth. I won’t take up any more of your time to discuss important matters. Is coffee all right? Are the two children hungry? How about I prepare some food?”
Jiang Ziya nodded. Even though he was embarrassed, he didn’t dare say he wasn’t hungry. After running about for an entire night, he really was hungry. If he said he wasn’t hungry and then his stomach growled, then Chen-yí would bring over so much food that he would explode! It wasn’t like this hadn’t happened at Jiu Ge before!
“Hungry.” Lu Yang admitted. “Very hungry.”
Hearing that, Chen Xiang smiled even wider. “I’ll cook some noodles for you.”
Lu Yang nodded and said, “Thank you.”
Chen Xiang led them into the coffee shop. Even though it was only almost dawn, there were already some customers in the shop. It was just that the shop was expertly divided using walls, windows, and dividers, so other than the tables near the entrance, the rest were all rather private, and no one could be seen.
However, they did not remain on the first floor and directly headed up to the second. When they set foot on the stairs, Jiang Ziya jolted and looked at Lu Yang, who narrowed his eyes, his anger rising.
He had already told Jiang Ziya to be 120% alert once they arrived at their destination, to be aware of any barrier dimensions. Even if they couldn’t figure out the barrier dimension’s weakness, as long as they knew of its existence, then they would be prepared. That was enough.
Before Lu Yang could summon Slay, Chen Xiang smiled and explained, “This staircase has an entrance to a barrier dimension. The private booth upstairs is usually not open to customers and is only used when Jiu Ge meets. As for what it is used for, you will understand soon. There is no need to explain more.”
Lu Yang frowned. He couldn’t ask Jiang Ziya if she was telling the truth or not. He could barely even be considered a newbie and wouldn’t know how to tell. Therefore, he turned and looked at his father to see if he could tell whether these words were true or not.
Liu Yishi seemed rather unperturbed. This confused Lu Yang a lot. When they were in the barrier dimension earlier, his father was also the one who had instructed him to accept the agreement.
“Then, let’s head upstairs.” Liu Yishi smilingly said, “I must greet the God of the Eastern Sky, Dong Huang Taiyi. When Master Ah Lu heard that I was coming here, he made sure to remind me to give him his greetings.”
Chen Xiang smiled. “Then, Taiyi will definitely be pleased. He greatly admires Master Ah Lu.”
The two of them crossed words, each word holding hidden meaning. Lu Yang only understood a little of it. His father probably meant that he had already told Gramps, so if they were to be harmed, Qing Wei Gong wouldn’t overlook this matter, while Chen Xiang’s response probably meant that they didn’t plan to be antagonistic.
As they climbed up the stairs step by step, Chen Xiang’s outfit gradually began to change. Her lilac shenyi4 was embroidered with a few lotuses, and her black skirt likewise had a dark lotus pattern on it. Her hair was pulled up in a loose bun. When she turned around to face everyone again, Chen Xiang had turned into a graceful lady of ancient times.
Jiang Ziya felt that this appearance suited Chen-yí a lot more, complementing her personality.
“Jiu Ge has always played it safe,” Liu Yishi began to ask, “but has recently partaken in matters one after another. What is the reason behind this? I ask on behalf of Qing Wei Gong’s Master Ah Lu.”
Chen Xiang pulled open the door to the booth, her lips pursed in a smile. “Please direct this inquiry to the God of the Eastern Sky. I am merely a coffee seller.”
A classical lady claiming to be a coffee seller. Jiang Ziya felt it was too incongruous. Shouldn’t it be tea?
Behind the door, a person wearing a mottled mask and black robes with gold trim sat kneeling at the table. He waved them over.
Jiang Ziya’s eyes widened. Is this person really Boss? Even though he had seen Fu Taiyi with this appearance before, it hadn’t been up close like this. Now that the other person was sitting right in front of him, he could truly sense his elegance and grandeur. He and Fu Taiyi were completely different kinds of people!
“Quite interesting guardian spirits you have there.” The God of the Eastern Sky, Dong Huang Taiyi, tilted his head to look at Liu Yishi and Lu Yang. “The father has a book, while the son has a sword, brains and brawn both present.”
Only then did Jiang Ziya notice that Slay had already materialized at some point, while a book floated beside Liu Yishi. Jiang Ziya looked over with curiosity.
Liu Yishi jolted. He looked at Jiang Ziya. Even though he had already heard from his son that Jiang Ziya’s left eye was powerful, experiencing it firsthand was completely different.
To most people, this book was transparent and even shone with light. It was impossible to perceive what kind of book it was. It would already be quite a feat to be able to tell that it had the shape of a book, especially when the book was closed like it was now. The boxy shape it currently had made it much more difficult to tell that it was a book compared to when it was open.
Yet Jiang Ziya had directly said that it was the Bible.
“The Bible?” Dong Huang Taiyi playfully said, “Ziya, in your eyes, what do I look like?”
“You’re wearing black robes with gold trim. What else?” He looked toward Lu Yang apprehensively, and the latter nodded, greatly calming his nerves.
Fu Taiyi removed his mask and placed it on the low table. He smiled. “I thought you would be able to see more clearly.”
Jiang Ziya was a little confused. See more clearly? Does he mean the pattern on his clothes? He could indeed see that pretty clearly. The outfit looked super expensive. Even though it was mostly black, even he could tell that the quality was superb!
At the low squared table, Liu Yishi sat across from Dong Huang Taiyi, and Lu Yang sat to the right of his father. Just as Jiang Ziya was about to sit in the remaining spot, Lu Yang waved him over.
“I almost forgot that Yu Shu is going to join us later. She’s taking so long.” As Jiang Ziya sat down, he quietly spoke with Lu Yang, “Do you think she’ll bring House Keeper and Hold Keeper with her? We won’t have enough seats.”
Lu Yang shook his head and said, “Relax, she treats those two illusory familiars like sons. She won’t bring them with her. After all, we don’t pose any threat to her life, but it’s hard to say when it comes to her sons.”
I see! Jiang Ziya came to a realization.
The wooden door to the booth was pulled open. Chen Xiang held two platters full of food. Jiang Ziya couldn’t figure out how she had been able to open the door.
As she put the food down, she told Lu Yang and Jiang Ziya, “Have some drinks and appetizers first. I’ll make some noodles for you two children. Be good and finish your food. Leave everything else to the adults.”
After she finished speaking, she even rubbed the two “children’s” heads, as if the two people in front of her were three year old toddlers instead of tall university guys.
Although Jiang Ziya felt embarrassed, Lu Yang was used to such treatment. Without hesitation, he said, “Thanks, Chen-yí,” and then began to eat.
As someone who had grown up surrounded by Qing Wei Gong’s elders, it was no big deal getting his head rubbed like a kid.
To the side, the adults conversed as if they were close friends.
Liu Yishi held his coffee and curiously looked at the other person’s drink.
“Your drink looks quite unique.”
“This is called liuqing,5 made through a combination of water, rice pulp, thin wine, cold broth, medical congee, and sweet wine. None still partake in it now.”
“A drink from the Chunqiu period?” Liu Yishi smilingly lifted his cup of coffee and said, “Whichever era one is from, one’s drink matches.”
Hearing that, Dong Huang Taiyi smiled as well. “From liuqing to tea, from tea to coffee, which era have I not experienced?”
Jiang Ziya quietly ate his food. The content of their conversation gave him a strange feeling. Also, since when has his boss spoken in such a genteel fashion?
He lifted his head. That was his boss’s face all right, even though such a serious expression didn’t suit his personality at all. With his glasses removed, a serious expression, and a set of ancient clothes, he truly did look like a handsome, ancient deity. The more Jiang Ziya looked, the more that face stopped looking like Fu Taiyi…
Dong Huang Taiyi looked over, his speech coming to a halt.
“Ziya!” Lu Yang clasped him on the shoulder and scolded, “Stop looking! Keep your head down and eat your food!”
Jiang Ziya was shaken and immediately dropped his head to stuff his mouth with food. He could eat without a care, but he couldn’t look carelessly!
At this time, the door was suddenly pulled open, and Chen Xiang said with a smile, “The last guest has arrived.”
1 “Xiang Shui Pan (湘水畔)”: Xiang Shui is the name of a river, while “Pan” means riverside. Xiang Shui Pan can be translated as “By the riverside of Xiang” or “Xiang riverside.” The Xiang River is the largest river in the Hunan Province in China.
2 “Chunqiu period”: The Chunqiu period, also known as the Spring and Autumn period, was a period in Chinese history from around 771 to 476 BC.
3 “yí (姨)”: Yí means aunt or auntie, and can be used to address older women someone is close to.
4 “shenyi (深衣)”: A historical, robe-like Chinese outfit with wide sleeves and a wide sash. The blouse and skirt are sewn together. Originally made from ramie fabric
5 “Liuqing (六清)”: A drink from the Chunqiu period. No tea involved. Liu means six.