Illusions, Lies, Truth Volume 5: The Fallen, Jiu Ge, Part One
Original novel in Chinese by: 御 我 (Yu Wo)
Prologue—translated by lucathia (proofread by Minthe & J Tao)
Jiang Ziya took in a deep breath, feeling like he was between a rock and a hard place. Just as he was about to ring the doorbell, Lu Yang, standing next to him, pressed the button before he could.
After an ugly shriek, the rusty, painted steel door opened by a sliver. From within, a pair of unfocused, spiritless eyes peered out…
“H-Hello, we are Jian Zhi’s classmates.”
The door was immediately thrown open. Tears swam in the old granny’s eyes. She first angled her head to the side and wiped her tears. Then, she smiled and waved them in. “Jian Zhi’s classmates! Come in. It’s too warm outside. Don’t just stand there foolishly. Better be makin’ your way in quickly.”
Jiang Ziya and Lu Yang first exchanged a glance, then looked behind them before following the old granny inside.
After walking in, they scrutinized their surroundings. The building was old, but the courtyard was a decent size. However, it was full of weeds, and many of the potted plants looked wilted from the hot weather.
The lights in the hallway were off, which actually made it rather dark during the day. The lights were also off in the living room they entered. There was a lot of random stuff piled beside the wall, and many photo albums were spread across the table.
Jiang Ziya glanced at Lu Yang. The latter nodded at him, which finally allowed Jiang Ziya to relax a bit.
The old granny knew that her house was a mess. She explained a bit helplessly, “My old bones can’t handle the cleanin’. I’m really sorry. Sit down. Granny will steep some tea for you. Sorry, Granny doesn’t have any other beverages.”
Jiang Ziya quickly said, “Tea is great.”
Lu Yang was right at home and sat down without further ado. He said with a smile, “My family also drinks tea. My gramps doesn’t allow us to buy other drinks. He says it’s not good for us.”
The old granny relaxed after hearing that. She was no longer as nervous as before and even said, “Your gramps is right. Drinkin’ tea is the best! Sit down, sit down.”
After saying that, the granny left for the kitchen.
Jiang Ziya finally heaved a sigh of relief and asked, “Seems like we cleared the first stage?”
Lu Yang said nonchalantly, “Granny’s eyesight isn’t the best, so the initial meeting is easy. The problem is with prolonged interaction afterwards.”
Hearing this answer, Jiang Ziya worriedly asked, “Then, will it be okay?”
“It should be okay.” Lu Yang surveyed the surroundings. It was dark and not properly lit, an excellent environment.
The old granny placed the tea tray down along with three cups and asked out of curiosity, “How do the three of you have time to come over today? Don’t you have classes?”
Jiang Ziya immediately replied, “We’re on summer vacation now.”
In actuality, it wasn’t yet time for summer vacation. However, after so much had happened, there was no way the university could ignore it all and continue to hold classes, so summer vacation had started early.
“Is that so?” Time was a blur for the old granny. She snuck several glances at the three of them and couldn’t help asking, “Is she an exchange student? She looks beautiful. Such a shy girl. She hasn’t lifted her head at all. No need to be shy. Granny won’t bite.”
“He’s a boy, of mixed descent. He’s called Jian Zhi. He’s been living overseas this whole time.”
The moment this name was spoken, Granny paled.
“It’s the zhi from zhēnzhì, sincerity,” Jiang Ziya quickly explained. “He and Jian Zhi were friends online and had known each other for a long time. Jian Zhi was the one who helped him come up with his Chinese name. Then, he decided to come here as an exchange student for a few years…”
Jiang Ziya felt like he had used up a lifetime’s worth of bullshit. Besides, the names Jian Zhi, ambition, and Jian Zhi, sincerity, were ultimately both pronounced the same. What a mess—sincerely! We shouldn’t have given the angel this name!
Now that it had come down to this, he could only bite the bullet and continue with the nonsense, “Jian Zhi had originally said that he could come and stay at his house with him, but now… Uh… Anyway, he doesn’t have a place to stay, so we wanted to ask Granny if you could take him in. He’ll pay rent…”
“What rent! No need!” The old granny graciously declared and then gently said, “Good child, lift your head and let Granny take a look.”
Outside, Jian Zhi had worn a peaked cap. He had pulled it down so that his face could not be seen. After entering the house, he had taken the cap off, but had kept his head lowered the entire time. His shoulder-length brown hair hid half his face. He was deeply afraid of being discovered.
Hearing Granny’s request, he had to lift his head, revealing an exquisite, heart-shaped face. After Lin Zhixiang’s modifications, his appearance as an angel had been adjusted to fall within human parameters. However, he was still breathtakingly beautiful and possessed a pair of deep blue eyes. He did not at all pale in comparison to even currently famous superstars.
Lu Yang felt that this face was too conspicuous and would easily attract attention, but he hadn’t been able to win against Lin Zhixiang. Jian Zhi himself hadn’t wished to make too many changes. He claimed that Jian Zhi had believed that angels looked like this, so that was why he appeared the way he did. He did not wish to alter his face.
Jiang Ziya felt that since even Lu Yang, a Taoist, looked like a mixed Asian model, would anything be more conspicuous than that?
“You sure are a beauty! Too bad you’re a boy.” Hearing about her grandson, the old granny could not help but ask, “Were you good friends with Jian Zhi? How long had you known each other?”
Jian Zhi immediately nodded. “More than te… five years. I like Jian Zhi a lot.”
“Is that so? Granny never heard Jian Zhi speak of you.”
Jiang Ziya broke out in cold sweat. He quickly explained, “He didn’t have a Chinese name before this. They only knew each other online and hadn’t met before. That might be why Jian Zhi never mentioned him!”
The old granny came to a realization and said, “Maybe Jian Zhi mentioned you before, but it was with some English name. And you’re online friends too. How could Granny remember that?”
Jian Zhi seriously said, “Granny, can I stay with you? I can do chores, and I can also work and earn money to buy presents for you.”
Doing chores and working a part time job to buy birthday gifts were of course things that the deceased Jian Zhi used to do. The angel Jian Zhi was of the mind to take on everything his Jian Zhi used to do.
Lu Yang was speechless. Working? You’re a guardian spirit that has possessed a corpse. Please, I beg you, stay in this dark ghost house and don’t wander around as you please! Aren’t you afraid that sunlight will immediately reveal your true visage after shining upon you? It won’t be the appearance of an angel, but that of a corpse!
You might even stink! Lu Yang felt his head throb. I’d best ask Gramps later if we should do any preservation. A situation like the angel’s was something that Lu Yang had only ever read about in ancient records. He had never encountered it before!
If not for Xu Xikai and that other person’s random meddling that resulted in the angel possessing a corpse and moving about like a live person, this would have been an impossible occurrence.
Even those two dolls across from Jiang Ziya’s place didn’t have the ability to randomly run around in broad daylight.
“Jian Zhi told you about that?” The old granny was smiling happily. “That idiot child went off to work to buy me some birthday gift. Aiya, what a waste of money!”
Jian Zhi nodded. “Granny looked great in the red jacket! Jian Zhi looked at it for a long time.”
Hearing about the red jacket, the old granny no longer had any suspicions. Her Jian Zhi had indeed bought a red jacket for her. She heard it was made of wool and very expensive! It was very warm and light…
Thinking of her own grandson, she lowered her head as tears began to drip down. She really didn’t understand how her grandson could be gone just like that when all he had done was attend school.
Jian Zhi moved forward and lightly patted Granny on the back.
“Come stay with me. Don’t even think about rent. Just think of it as keepin’ Granny company.”
While this happened, Lu Yang pulled at Jiang Ziya and left the living room on his tiptoes. The latter had thought they were just trying to avoid making the old granny feel awkward about her tears, but Lu Yang pulled him right out the door.
Jiang Ziya asked in surprise, “Are we leaving just like this? We can’t just leave Jian Zhi by himself like this, can we?”
“This is how it should go. As two people who are very much alive, our presence would only be a hindrance.”
Lu Yang said calmly, “Our mission was just to bring Jian Zhi in, giving him a logical reason to stay. As long as Granny’s suspicions aren’t raised, we can let something as unreliable as memory fill in the rest of the blanks. As more time passes, Granny might even mistake Jian Zhi for another one of her grandsons.”
Something as unreliable as memory…
Jiang Ziya turned his head back to stare at the rusty, painted door. In a daze, he seemed to see the stainless steel door of his own apartment. The inner door wasn’t closed. Looking in through the gaps of the railings of the outer door, he could see a familiar figure hug a crying little girl. The little girl’s appearance… Sis…
Ring, ring, ring.
Lu Yang glanced at the display on his cell phone and directly pressed the speaker button, allowing Jiang Ziya to listen in. But when he glanced over, he discovered the spooked look on Jiang Ziya’s face.
He asked in confusion, “What’s wr—”
“Did it succeed?” Lin Zhixiang’s hurried question came from the cell phone. “Was Granny suspicious? Was Jian Zhi able to stay successfully?”
“It was a success.” Jiang Ziya replied, “Jian Zhi’s granny wasn’t suspicious.”
Lin Zhixiang was so happy that she could jump for joy. She had been beyond worried about this matter yet had been too scared to personally visit. Before this life-threatening ability of “cursing herself” was resolved, she did not dare to visit Jian Zhi’s granny. Granny was advanced in her years. If anything happened to her, Lin Zhixiang felt that she would have to hang herself to apologize to Jian Zhi.
“Since Jian Zhi’s situation has been resolved, I’d like to treat you two as thanks. Is that fine?” Lin Zhixiang tried to hold herself back, but she couldn’t help saying more out of nervousness, “Is a Chinese restaurant okay? I know you like hotpot, but my nephew is young. I’m afraid the hotpot might be dangerous…”
Jiang Ziya didn’t know whether to laugh or cry as he answered, “Anything is fine. Lu Yang and I aren’t picky. You pick the date. Just message us the time and location.”
“Today! Let’s make it tonight!”
“Sure, sure, sure—”
Lin’s Zest and Xanthan Cake:1 Hibiscus Chinese Restaurant. Time: Tonight at 7 pm. Location: Zhongxiang City…
You must have already made the reservation before this! Jiang Ziya looked at the message on his phone. Even a map and directions had been included.
Grand Duke Jiang is Fishing: Got it! I’ll be there at seven!
He could understand Lin Zhixiang’s urgency. If he was in her position of not having seen his sister for a long time and not having ever met his sister’s child, he would probably be just as excited to meet the kid for the first time.
“Lin Zhixiang said tonight at seven. Lu Yang, you’re sure you can make it, right?”
When Jiang Ziya lifted his head, he saw that Lu Yang was staring fixedly at him. Jiang Ziya touched his face and asked, “What? Is there something on my face?”
Lu Yang tilted his head to look. He flashed his white teeth as he smiled and said, “No, nothing at all, just not as handsome as mine.”
“… We better break up our partnership here.”
“No can do. We’re destined to be partners!”
“This is cruel and unusual punishment…”
1 Lin’s Zest and Xanthan Cake: Lin Zhixiang’s handle is a pun off of her name, which we have chosen to capture here with her initials. The original pun is 鄰家芝麻香糕, which translates to Lin Family’s Sesame Fragrant Cake, or in pinyin Linjia zhima xianggao.