Illusions, Lies, Truth Volume 5: The Fallen, Jiu Ge, Part One
Original novel in Chinese by: 御 我 (Yu Wo)
Chapter 1: The Novices Debut, Part 3—Case Two—translated by lucathia (proofread by Trespasserby & J Tao)
The moment they arrived outside the hotel entrance, Lu Yang and company froze immediately. The hotel lobby was brightly lit, and an altar had even been set up inside. A middle-aged person wearing Taoist robes was in the middle of a ritual with a luopan, a Feng Shui compass, in his hand. Beside him, there was also a disciple of middle-school age or so who was responsible for fetching tools.
Two rows of people, all wearing suits, stood behind them. These people were clearly the hotel’s staff.
Someone among the staff had also noticed the three of them. A female staff member immediately rushed out and explained, “My apologies, esteemed guests, we are carrying out a great worship service today at the hotel. We aren’t open for business.”
Who conducts worship services at night?! Jiang Ziya felt this excuse was poor, but it was clear the other person was just using a random excuse to make them go away.
Lu Yang took out his cell phone and made a call. A person wearing a suit in the lobby quickly took out their cell phone and instantly picked up the call once they saw the caller on the screen.
“This is Slay. I’m currently standing outside the hotel.”
The suit-wearing man looked out from within, eyes widening. Following that, he walked out with an awkward expression on his face.
“Are you really Master Slay?” The moment he said this, the suit-wearing man knew he should not have done so. It sounded as if he were accusing the other person with his words, but he really couldn’t help it!
Lu Yang gave an affirmative response and replied, “Are you Manager Wang?”
“Yes… T-The Great Master is unexpectedly young.” Manager Wang was quite disciplined. Even faced with a great master who looked like a model of mixed descent, and who even had two university students following behind him, he still kept his doubts at bay and explained apologetically, “We thought that Master Slay would need longer before coming over. The matter really could not wait, so we found someone else to come and give it a try first.”
Lu Yang did not mind, and said, “No worries, I did say that you could find someone else if it couldn’t wait.”
At this time, the middle-aged Taoist also walked out. Manager Wang immediately felt awkward, like he was caught in the middle of a battlefield. He hurried to explain, “Master Li, the other managers and I contacted both great masters at the same time. We had always wanted your help and did not think that Master Slay would come over tonight.”
Manager Wang looked at Lu Yang’s young face and decided to appeal to Master Li more. Even though he had researched for a long time and heard that Slay’s reputation was the highest—he had to expend considerable effort before he learned how to contact Slay—Slay, in person, had no connection with the two words “great master.” Rather, he was greatly suited to auditioning for his debut!
“I see, no harm.” The middle-aged Taoist politely dealt with Manager Wang. He immediately looked toward Lu Yang and asked, “You are Qing Wei Gong’s Slay?”
“Yes.” Lu Yang quickly took measure of this Taoist, paying particular attention to the luopan the other person held.
“I have heard many things about you. I am Taoist Li Shan.”
The middle-aged Taoist was rather polite and did not underestimate Lu Yang despite his age and appearance. Even though Slay really did not conform to the image of an expert, and had not even brought any tools with him, his reputation preceded him. There were few practitioners who didn’t know of him.
“Nice to meet you, I am Lu Yang.” Lu Yang gave his real name. Using a code name at this point in time would be too impolite.
“Since we have run into each other, how about we head in together to assess the situation?”
Of course, Taoist Li Shan did not wish to share the case. The hotel’s troubles did not seem to be significant. Who wouldn’t want such an easy case with high compensation? However, he did not wish to cross Lu Yang. Slay was rumored to be tremendously powerful, and Qing Wei Gong’s backing was nothing to scoff at either.
“Shifu!” The middle-school aged disciple ran out, face full of disbelief as he shouted, “Why would you want to work together with this kind of guy? H-he’s not even wearing Taoist robes! He’s basically a fraud!”
Taoist Li Shan turned and yelled at his disciple, “Liao Anshun, shut your mouth! You’re speaking nonsense. This one is Master Lu. He is a great master with genuine talent!”
The disciple widened his eyes, completely in disbelief.
“I won’t go in.” Lu Yang shook his head and said, “All is well if someone is already on the case.”
Taoist Li Shan quickly said, “My disciple is being too rude. He is young and brash. His mouth moves faster than he thinks. He doesn’t mean it.”
Lu Yang smiled and said, unbothered, “He is quite the energetic one. Go ahead and continue. It would not do to miss the most auspicious timing.”
Even though Lu Yang did not pay attention to observing the most auspicious timing, that was because Slay emboldened him—though putting it that way wasn’t quite right either. Before he had Jiang Ziya, he more or less paid some attention to the time so he could choose a time when the spirits caused the most trouble; otherwise, he wouldn’t be able to find the spirit!
Manager Wang furtively wiped away his sweat. As long as they could peacefully resolve this, things were fine. He quickly smiled and handed over a red envelope. “Great Master, this is a little something for your transportation fees. We thank you from the depths of our hearts for coming to assess the situation.”
Lu Yang took the money without turning it down. He turned toward Jiang Ziya and Lin Zhixiang, saying, “Let’s go. They’re fine here.”
The two apprentices just nodded obediently.
The three of them walked to the motorcycles parked by the road and left in a whirl.
He even rides a heavy motorcycle. Why is this great master so handsome and cool?
Everyone on site was left speechless. Manager Wang was sweating even more than before. He thought it was fortunate that he had later asked for Taoist Li Shan to come. He appeared much more reliable than Master Slay.
Liao Anshun said, conflicted, “Shifu, you even called him a great master. How does he look any bit like a great master? He doesn’t even wear Taoist robes, and he can’t have brought any tools on that motorcycle. Even frauds aren’t so lazy!”
Manager Wang inwardly agreed, but didn’t dare express it.
Taoist Li Shan immediately whacked his disciple on the head and scolded, “Shut it. Is it up to you to decide what a great master should look like? Don’t speak such nonsense in the future. Master Lu was gracious this time, or else you’d be in grave trouble!”
Liao Anshun rubbed the back of his head in pain. He wasn’t convinced, but didn’t dare say anything more.
“Is it okay to give the case to someone else?”
The three of them sat in a 24/7 Forever X Soy Milk Shop. After having just finished a big meal, they weren’t hungry at all, so they only ordered one drink each to quench their thirst.
Lu Yang initially wanted to reply that it wouldn’t be a problem, but after glancing at his partner and disciple, he felt like he should explain more.
“Even though I haven’t heard of him before, he knows who I am, and his luopan is also the real deal. He isn’t a fraud. He should have enough power to solve this kind of small haunting.”
Jiang Ziya hesitated for a moment before saying, “Taoist Li Shan had two little black blobs on his shoulders. Did you see them?”
Lu Yang couldn’t deny it and said, “Yes, but they’re not a big issue. Those things are called infant essences. They are fetuses who have died prematurely before being born. They follow the mother for the most part, but some will follow the father.”
One of life’s greatest mysteries had been solved for Jiang Ziya. He often saw women with these black blobs. So they’re fetuses.
“That Taoist Li Shan actually made a woman have an abortion? Two, even?” Lin Zhixiang’s eyes grew round, her face full of reprobation. Even her parents hadn’t given up on her although she was existence’s bane!
Lu Yang shook his head and said, “In the case of a child following the father, often it means the mother also died, or the mother and child died together. This situation shouldn’t be an abortion. Don’t make random guesses. Sometimes, a woman who has never been pregnant will also get entangled with infant essences. They just like finding someone to be their mother.”
Lin Zhixiang repented. Taoist Li Shan turned from a bastard who forced a woman to have an abortion, to a poor husband whose wife and children had all perished.
Lu Yang hesitated. Without the case at the hotel, the most crucial case at hand was the criminal one that Hu Lican had forced on him. But could he really bring these two with him? Jiang Ziya had accompanied him on a few missions, but Lin Zhixiang was a novice…
Oh, wait, after the incident Xu Xikai caused, she can’t exactly be considered a novice either right?
The spree killing during the university club activity, the vampire Xu Xikai, and finally, the thirteenth bookcase that had been made to appear at the library—no case that Lu Yang completed in the past had ever been as serious as these!
This wasn’t even taking into account how Lin Zhixiang had experienced getting stuck in a barrier dimension at the supermarket and a death god retrieving the wrong soul, all long before the incident at the university. Lin Zhixiang might even have experienced more than many practitioners.
When he saw Lu Yang’s conflicted expression, Jiang Ziya immediately said, “If there aren’t any suitable cases, then I’ll take Lin Zhixiang home, and I’ll be going home afterwards to shower and sleep, too.”
However, Lu Yang came to a decision. His disciple had experienced plenty. A mere criminal case was nothing.
“Let’s go together. In any case, Hu Lican will be present too. But don’t you go—
“Randomly looking around, randomly speaking, or randomly moving!”
Jiang Ziya had really been frightened by how he had “called” the girl’s spirit last time. A proper girl, though she had been a ghost but with the appearance of a normal person, had rotted on the spot just because he called out her name. This time, he didn’t dare to randomly say stuff anymore.
Lin Zhixiang also grew nervous at that. She recited in her mind those nine words of wisdom nonstop: No randomly looking around, randomly speaking, or randomly moving.
“Very good.” Lu Yang nodded, took out his cell phone, and immediately made the call. “Captain Hu, I suddenly have time to deal with the criminal case. Do you have time to head over to the scene?”
“I’ll be there right away!” The voice that came over the phone was so loud that even Jiang Ziya and Lin Zhixiang both heard it.
The three of them hurried to the next location: an old residence that was five stories tall. They parked the motorcycles right at the entrance without a care. After all, if they got a ticket, they would submit it for reimbursement, and the police department would be paying it themselves.
Lu Yang wondered if he should switch to driving a car instead. This way, while they were hurrying to the location, Jiang Ziya could read up on the case details in the car. So much time could be saved—but forget it. Any time that gets saved would just mean more cases to solve!
Lu Yang immediately gave up on the notion. If they occasionally needed a car, they could just call a taxi.
Hu Lican had arrived before the three of them and was standing in front of the residence… over ten meters away, diagonally across the street. Fang Da stood next to him with a stiff expression and didn’t even have the courage to look toward the residence.
Lu Yang gave the photographs from the file to Jiang Ziya and cautioned him, “There’s a corpse. Awful sight. Don’t get scared out of your wits.” Then, he handed the text information to Lin Zhixiang.
Jiang Ziya nodded. He flipped through the photographs but still received a scare. It really was too tragic.
A man leaned against the wall, both eyes wide open even in death. His neck was unnaturally crooked, clearly from being chopped at. The head hanging above the shoulders was nearly about to fall off. Blood had sprayed everywhere, and some had even gotten on the ceiling. The entire photograph was filled with blood. It was hard to believe that a single person’s body could contain so much blood.
Lin Zhixiang shouted in alarm, “I saw news about this on TV! Something about how the wife could not bear the long-term domestic abuse and used a knife to hack her husband to death. A lot of people online are on the wife’s side!”
“This is the third domestic violence case here at this residence.” Hu Lican’s expression was grave as he said, “The conditions here are poor. Many people who choose to live here more or less have some trouble going on in their lives. However, all three domestic violence cases are serious. Two deaths and one critically injured. A wife hacking at her husband, a mother killing her son, and in the very first case, a husband hacking at his wife. The wife was in critical condition, but didn’t die. She is the only victim in these three cases that survived.
“The mental states of the three culprits were all very poor. They spoke nonsense and were violent. No matter what was asked of them, they only replied ‘he must die,’ ‘he deserves it,’ ‘let him have it’ or the like.”
Lu Yang asked, “Did the survivor say anything?”
Hu Lican’s expression was conflicted as he replied, “Yes, she said it was her fault—that everything was her fault—but she was judged to be delusional, suffering from escapism and Stockholm syndrome. In such a mental state, her testimony isn’t credible.”
“What do you think is wrong?” Lu Yang asked directly.
Hu Lican always screened the cases. If he was unsure that a case was problematic, it wouldn’t be brought to Lu Yang’s attention. If he was wrong, it would mean that Lu Yang’s time was wasted, time that could have been used to solve cases that actually were problematic. If he made this kind of mistake, Hu Lican would even want to slap himself several times.
“It’s probably this?”
Jiang Ziya handed over a photograph that showed the corpse from a different angle. The camera happened to face the window. The corpse’s face was very dark, but it could still be seen.
The corpse was smiling.
Lin Zhixiang was so scared that she leaped right behind Lu Yang. That smile definitely wasn’t merely the result of a different angle. Both sides of the lips were lifted particularly high. This wasn’t the way a normal person would smile. It was as if someone was using their hands to lift the mouth up to an unnatural degree. Just a glance would make your scalp tingle and your heart shiver.
“I see the corpse smiling. What do you see?” Lu Yang asked Jiang Ziya.
“It’s smiling, yes, and the appearance of this face is different from the appearances in the other photographs. It seems off to me, and unnatural, like…”
Jiang Ziya tried to describe the feeling he had, but he didn’t know how to phrase it. Suddenly, he saw Lin Zhixiang. A light bulb went off, and he blurted, “Like a woman putting on thick makeup and doing a poor, ugly job at it.”
Lin Zhixiang wanted to hit him. I’m not in the habit of using makeup, okay! Don’t look at me!
“It’s a woman?” Lu Yang asked.
Jiang Ziya frowned and thought it over carefully. “I don’t think so. The makeup is really terrible. No woman would make themselves this ugly with makeup.”
“Maybe they botched it?” Lin Zhixiang didn’t use makeup. First of all, she was poor. Second of all, she was never in the mood to apply something as trivial as makeup. However, she still cared about beauty and always paid attention to information related to it. She had also seen the tragic sight of women with ruined make-up on the streets before.
She explained, “Sometimes, when it’s too hot and a girl’s makeup isn’t done properly, it’ll look splotchy and ugly, even worse than not putting on makeup. If even her eyeliner gets smudged, and her eyebrow contouring rubs off too, the result would be scary enough to shoot a horror movie. Eyebrow-less, with complimentary dark circles!”
After saying that, she muttered, “But I haven’t seen such tragedy much lately. In the past when I was in middle and high school, I saw it a few times, but makeup nowadays is too amazing. It’s like painting. Li Yao told me before that she had to spend half an hour to remove her makeup before she would be satisfied.”
Lin Zhixiang couldn’t help but fall silent when she thought of Li Yao.
After experiencing the glass shattering, they had grown closer, but it didn’t take long for something to happen to Li Yao. Even though Lu Yang and Jiang Ziya had both said it wasn’t because of her, and that it was Xu Xikai who did it, Lin Zhixiang always thought, If she didn’t become involved with me, would Li Yao really have been so unfortunate to have been targeted by Xu Xikai?
Jiang Ziya came to a realization and said, “Right, it should be like what you’re describing.”
Lu Yang praised, “Not bad, disciple, your first day in training and you’ve already made a contribution.”
Having finally been useful, Lin Zhixiang managed to cheer up.
Hu Lican was puzzled watching them. He had seen Lin Zhixiang before, but the last time they met, the situation had been chaotic. He had thought that the other person was just an innocent civilian who had gotten involved. He asked, “She’s become your new assistant?”
“Disciple.” Lu Yang explained, “If she succeeds in the apprenticeship, Qing Wei Gong will gain a member.”
Hearing that, Hu Lican immediately handed over his business card and introduced himself, “I am Hu Lican, the captain of a small police team. I am in your care, future great master.”
It didn’t matter that the future great master was still a disciple. This kind of friendly relationship built up since being a disciple was exactly what would allow them to be unashamed of clinging to the master’s thighs later on!
Hu Lican kicked the young guy next to him. He was also the “disciple” that Hu Lican had chosen to take the baton after him. Hurry and get to hugging those future thighs!
“I’m Fang Da.” Fang Da handed over the business card he had been forced to make. He wanted to cry but had no tears. Even though he had been promoted to vice-captain and his salary had increased by several thousand, he didn’t want it at all!
Overwhelmed by the flattery, Lin Zhixiang took the two business cards. Hu Lican immediately said with thick skin, “Future Great Master Lin, could I get your number? Can I add you as a friend?”
“I-I’m not some great master. Just call me Lin Zhixiang.”
Lin Zhixiang was so nervous that she couldn’t even hold her cell phone steadily. She trembled as she recited her number and added the police captain as a friend. During the whole process, she wondered more than once whether this was real life or not.
Fang Da also quickly added her as a friend. From each other’s nervous expression, they keenly realized… they were birds of a feather!
“I-I’m new. I’m a disciple-in-training.”
“I am Captain Hu’s vice-captain. I just started this position a few days ago.”
Both novices grew teary-eyed, sympathizing with each other. This is a normal person who won’t use a sword to cut down a ghost, and who will tremble at the sight of one!
“I’m also a novice.”
Jiang Ziya moved forward to join them, yet the two of them rolled their eyes at him. After rolling his eyes, the policeman panicked and cried out, “Stop teasing! You are a great master, not a novice.”
Rubbing his nose, Jiang Ziya returned next to Lu Yang. “I seemed to have gotten kicked out.”
“What a shame, for you to be kicked back to my side.” Lu Yang added, as a third eye-roller.
Jiang Ziya’s expression clearly said, “I really am being mistreated.”
Lu Yang pulled at his partner’s aggrieved face.
“Hurry and head in. It’s already late at night. Do you want to go home and sleep or not?”
I want to go home right now. Best case scenario would be not going in at all! All of their expressions seem to indicate this.
Although Lu Yang’s expression was stern as he led the way into the residence, his footsteps had lightened considerably. He suddenly felt that completing missions didn’t seem to be such a tiring task after all.