Illusions, Lies, Truth Volume 1: Human Doll Contract Part One
Original novel in Chinese by: 御 我 (Yu Wo)
Chapter 2: Jiang Jiang Part 1—Those Things that Cannot be Remembered—translated by Raylight
“Oh no! I’m late again!”
A tragic cry came from the second floor, and it was so loud that it could practically shake the heavens. Thankfully, by this time, it was already past nine in the morning. Among the neighbors, those who were employed had already gone to work, and those who were studying had already left for class. Not many people were at home.
Jiang Yu had originally been a little worried about waking up Yu Shu, who was next door, because she seemed to be a night owl. However, she had asked her about it once when she was taking out the trash. Yu Shu’s reply was that during the morning, she would always sleep very well. Even if there was a temple parade outside, with gongs and drums, along with firecrackers being set off, she would still be oblivious.
Jiang Yu had already become very accustomed to this, and she had already packed up her little brother’s breakfast. Once she heard Jiang Ziya running down the stairs with loud thuds, she stood right at the end of the stairwell and held up the Kraft paper bag with his breakfast in it. When her brother passed by like a gust of wind, he conveniently whisked away his breakfast.
Jiang Ziya put on his shoes while shouting, “Morning, Sis. Bye!” and then dashed out of the door.
Jiang Yu shook her head, and then returned to caring for her two daughters, who were in the midst of eating breakfast.
After dashing out of the apartment, Jiang Ziya hopped on his motorbike. Though he was in a terrible hurry, he didn’t dare exceed the speed limit. If he were to receive a speeding ticket, their house would have to eat porridge and cabbage for an entire week. For him, having to eat that was a small issue, but he couldn’t stand forcing his sister and brother-in-law to eat them along with him.
As for the two little girls at home, even if the three adults were unable to eat a proper meal, they would still think of any method they could to let them eat their fill and dress warmly.
“Why is there a traffic jam?!” He was so anxious that he was on the verge of vomiting blood. There was roll call in class today!
A motorcycle is actually unable to squeeze past, Jiang Ziya couldn’t help but mutter in his heart. What is going on? Isn’t Taiwan’s traffic a little too horrible…? Right now, it’s not even morning rush hour… Huh, an accident?
The muttering stopped in an instant. Jiang Ziya wanted to turn back, but it was already too late. Although he did not usually see things that were commonly called “ghosts,” it was unavoidable that they would appear at the scene of an accident. Therefore, he always tried very hard to avoid certain terrifying photographs and scenes where accidents had taken place. Because of this, he had even gained the title of “King of Cowards.”
But, he would rather be cowardly than see those kinds of things.
However, now that he was in a situation where there were cars in front of him and scooters behind him, it was difficult to advance or retreat. There was no way he could avoid the scene, and he could only steadily go forward with the flow of cars. He wanted to turn his head away, but he had to keep his eyes on the road ahead, and he couldn’t possibly stop himself from seeing the accident out of the corners of his eyes—not to mention that it was impossible to overlook something of that size!
The accident seemed to involve a car and a scooter. The crash was very serious, and fragments of the scooter covered the ground. There was even a large pool of blood. The victim wasn’t there. The ambulance had probably already carried the person away. However, this didn’t stop Jiang Ziya’s accursed left eye.
It was a girl. Who knew? She might even be a student at the same university as Jiang Ziya.
The enormous, black-colored death god was as tall as two people. It wore a ragged black robe, faintly exposing its skeleton and decaying flesh. It had a nauseating rotting smell, and within its eye sockets, there were even two blood-shot eyeballs!
A girl knelt in front of that thing. In comparison, the girl looked like a newborn lamb. On her ankles were many thorny shackles. She was then dragged away by the death god.
Her screaming never ceased. Her body was sprawled on the ground, and as she was dragged away, a trail of blood was left behind. Both of her hands were desperately trying to cling onto something, but all that surrounded her was the asphalt road surface. She could only use her fingertips to try and grip onto the bumpy tar.
Her fingernails fell off, the skin of her fingertips became chapped and raw, and the white bones of her fingers made a sharp screech as they scratched against the ground…
Jiang Ziya turned his face away. He had seen all kinds of strange things, but the ones that he had the hardest time accepting were always the things like this.
He took in a few deep breaths and continued slowly advancing forward with the flow of cars. Whether he would be late or not was an issue he no longer cared about. At least he was still alive, thank the heavens.
When he arrived at school, class had already been dismissed. If the roll call had been done during the first period, then even if he went to his second period, it would be of no use. However, he did not mind. Just being alive was good enough.
“Why are you putting on such a dead face so early in the morning?” A bold voice asked straightforwardly.
Jiang Ziya flung his bag on the table and lazily sat down. He asked, “Have they taken attendance?”
“Count yourself lucky. They haven’t.” Lu Yang also sat down.
The two of them had been good friends since high school. The reason why the two of them got along was because there was something strange about both of them.
Lu Yang was of mixed blood. Having a head of brown hair wasn’t an issue, since there were many people who dyed their hair nowadays. However, he had a pair of green eyes and pronounced facial features. As for Jiang Ziya, he had a blue patch in his left eye and behaved strangely. Therefore, the two of them had naturally grown close. It had been like this since high school.
Jiang Ziya helped Lu Yang with his homework so that he wouldn’t fail, and Lu Yang, who was trained in wrestling, helped Jiang Ziya keep trouble seekers away. It had always been this way.
However, the other classmates had always found it very strange. Lu Yang had a refined appearance and didn’t look in the slightest like someone who would beat people up. Jiang Ziya was even a little taller than him. In addition, Jiang Ziya, who skipped lessons so often that he seemed on the verge of getting kicked out of school, didn’t seem like someone who was good at studying.
Jiang Ziya opened up his breakfast and took a look. It was a club sandwich, milk, and a tea egg. Because his sister’s cooking was always very good, it smelled delicious. He then shoved his breakfast at Lu Yang.
“What’s wrong?” Lu Yang asked, “Did you see something strange again?”
Jiang Ziya nodded his head, feeling a little weak. He was hungry, but after seeing that kind of horrid scene, he simply did not have the confidence to say that he could stomach a breakfast that had meat and tomato sauce in it.
“O.K. Swap!” Lu Yang didn’t persuade him to eat, and only threw him a bag of potato chips. Jiang Ziya shot a grateful look at his good friend.
“It’s that, right?” Lu Yang ate as he asked, “I heard that one of our first year female students got into a car accident.”
As expected, she was from our school, huh… Jiang Ziya’s heart sank.
“But I heard that she seems to be alive!”
“Is that true?” Jiang Ziya felt a little surprised. Usually, if he were to see a situation that horrible, the person was dead.
“Yeah, my junior sent the news to me. She seems to be unconscious still, but not dead.” Lu Yang swallowed the sandwich, and as he fiddled with his phone, said, “I heard that she’s a beauty and also runs a blog. She’s considered to be a web beauty with a bit of fame… Look! She looks pretty good, doesn’t she?”
Lu Yang turned the phone toward Jiang Ziya’s face. On the screen, there was a big-eyed beauty, and he could faintly see cleavage that had been squeezed out on purpose.
Jiang Ziya’s eyes widened.
Lu Yang asked seriously, “Your expression doesn’t seem like you saw a beauty but a ghost. What’s wrong? Did something appear in the classroom?”
“There’s nothing in the classroom. It’s just that, the one I saw at the scene of the accident wasn’t her…”
Just what on earth is going on?
“Hm?” Lu Yang looked at the girl displayed on his phone and said, “It’s probably because of the angle! Nowadays, girls like to take pictures from above, so the photos and the actual person actually look quite different.”
Jiang Ziya shook his head and replied, “They’re completely different. The person I saw had black hair, no make-up, and was wearing jeans with sneakers. This person has brown hair and is wearing thick make-up with fashionable clothes. They’re simply two different people.”
Lu Yang scratched his head and said, “Then, they should be two different people. The person that I heard of isn’t the type who would go out without make-up. Perhaps what you saw was something that happened in the past?”
Jiang Ziya felt that it was a little peculiar. Since he had seen a girl being dragged away by a death god, then it should have been something that had just occurred. However, he had no intentions of thinking too much on this issue. Anyways, it was impossible for him to find out the real truth of the matter, so he just shrugged his shoulders and said, “I guess so! Since she’s fine, I guess it doesn’t matter.”
At this point, a strange smile crept across Lu Yang’s face. This made Jiang Ziya feel alarmed. This smile…
“Help me write my reflection report. I have to hand it in this afternoon.”
As expected! Jiang Ziya rolled his eyes at him and unhappily asked, “What did you do last night? Just once while I’m still alive, can I see you do your own homework?”
“Definitely, definitely! Before you die, I will definitely do it once.”
“… Damn you!”
With his head down, Jiang Ziya worked hard at writing the reflection report during lunch. Lu Yang, the owner of the homework, was instead sitting opposite him and eating a bowl of Yangchun noodles.1 As he had no appetite, Jiang Ziya only had bread.
To be eating while another person did his homework made even Lu Yang start to feel a little embarrassed. He said, “Are you free tonight? I’ll treat you to a meal. I know a place with pretty good seafood stir-fry.”
Jiang Ziya rolled his eyes as he commented, “Is there an offer now that if I collect the points from doing your homework five times, I get a meal in return? I would rather see you do your homework obediently.”
Lu Yang shrugged his shoulders and said, “Can’t do that. I’m too busy!”
“You’re helping out with family matters again?” Jiang Ziya tried inquiring.
Hearing this simple response, Jiang Ziya didn’t continue his line of questioning. Since high school, he could tell that Lu Yang was reluctant to mention his family matters. Therefore, Jiang Ziya didn’t ask much. Occasionally, he would ask about it, testing whether the two of them were close enough for Lu Yang to share the issue. However, since it always failed, he didn’t continue asking further.
“Is it unfair?” Lu Yang seemed a little awkward as he said, “You have already told me about the issue with your eye, but I—”
“Nothing of the sort,” Jiang Ziya interrupted him. “The issue with my eye was something that I wanted to tell you. The fact that you are willing to believe me already makes me want to thank the heavens.”
Lu Yang‘s expression turned mushy and he shouted, “Ziya, I love you so muuuuuch!”
“You love that I help you do your homework!” Jiang Ziya threw the assignment at the other person’s face, causing a series of exaggerated screams of pain, though Jiang Ziya didn’t believe them in the slightest.
“Nonsense. My love for you is even taller than the mountains and deeper than the seas. Especially before final exams…”
After horsing around for a while, Jiang Ziya started to feel a little hungry. With one hand, he messed up Lu Yang’s fashionably gelled haircut into something that resembled a bird’s nest. Afterward, he said, “I’m going to buy another bread bun.”
Lu Yang made a face like he was going to wail, but since he was holding homework that someone had just finished for him, he could not put up any objections. He only gave an “Okay,” and then took out his mirror to try and salvage his messed up hair.
Biting on unpalatable bread leftover from the lunch crowd, Jiang Ziya walked while concentrating hard on memorizing English words. This was his habit. It was not because he was very studious, but rather because he wanted to stop himself from looking around and seeing things that shouldn’t be seen… However, because of this, his chances of walking into a wall were also greatly increased.
However, there were benefits too.
Because of his habit, his grades were always excellent. Of course, another reason for that was because Jiang Ziya refused to risk failing a subject. He didn’t have the money to attend summer classes, and summer was an important time for him to work part-time!
Suddenly, someone bumped into his left shoulder, and following that was a voice exclaiming, “Sorry, sorry!”
Jiang Ziya replied reflexively, “It’s okay—“
Halfway through his words, he was stunned.
The other person was a girl holding a cup of cola and a Big Bite. Her black hair was tied into a ponytail, and she was wearing a simple T-shirt with jeans and sneakers. The key thing was, her face looked about eighty percent similar to the girl who had been dragged away by the death god this morning…
However, Jiang Ziya couldn’t confirm whether it was true or not. After all, at the accident scene this morning, that girl’s face had been completely contorted, so it simply wasn’t easy to recognize her.
The girl was extremely awkward as she said, “My cola spilled onto your pants.”
Jiang Ziya checked, and on his back pocket, there really was a small wet patch. He shrugged and said, “Jeans only require a bit of washing. It’s fine.”
The girl observed Jiang Ziya carefully. Seeing that he truly did not mind, she gave him a grateful smile.
“Lin Zhixiang, hurry, hurry! There’s a spot here!” Another girl waved frantically from a table close-by.
The girl turned to shout “Coming,” and then politely gave an apology of “I’m really sorry about that” to Jiang Ziya again. Then, with her cola and Big Bite, she left the scene cautiously, deeply afraid of bumping into someone again.
Watching the girl’s back, Jiang Ziya hesitated. However, he still didn’t go up and ask her. While he was growing up, he had already made a fool of himself too many times because of that eye of his.
Since the other person was still standing here perfectly fine, and the junior who had gotten into a car accident was also still alive, everyone was fine, so everything was good. He didn’t need to create trouble—the fact that two little girls had suddenly appeared at home was already enough to deal with.
Thinking about the two girls at home, he realized that he could ask Lu Yang about it! Jiang Ziya was a little curious as to Lu Yang’s answer of how many girls there were at his place. He had talked to Lu Yang about his family before, so Lu Yang should remember.
He walked back to the table in a hurry and saw that Lu Yang was currently looking at his smart phone with his head down.
“Smart phone addict, be careful of getting a double chin!”
Jiang Ziya was simply unable to understand the joy of staring at a cell phone.
However, perhaps it was also a case of sour grapes. He had to admit that he could not afford something like that, so he naturally would not know the joy of it.
Lu Yang lifted his head, and with a grave expression, said, “The junior woke up. However, I heard that she might have been shocked out of her wits. She keeps saying some crazy stuff.”
“Are you an information broker?” Jiang Ziya gave his classmate a strange look. “Why are you always the first to know these kinds of things?”
Previously, it was all gossip, so he didn’t pay it any attention. This time, to even know about an accident… It made him start to consider whether his classmate from high school was hiding some kind of great secret.
For example, maybe his father was the head of the Secret Service Agency… But did Taiwan have a Secret Service Agency?
“That’s simple. She is my junior’s roommate!”
Jiang Ziya frowned as he asked, “Your junior’s roommate? Last time at the meeting, didn’t all her roommates come? I don’t remember this woman being there…”
“I have more than twenty female juniors.”
“Once again, I shall represent the ‘Go Die’ group to tell you again, ‘Go die!’”
Lu Yang lifted his head and starting sizing up Jiang Ziya. His gaze made Jiang Ziya’s skin crawl. Then Lu Yang said, “With a bit of dressing up, if you wanted to have more than twenty female juniors, it wouldn’t be hard. Your face is pretty decent, and you’re tall. That you aren’t too muscular either is considered pretty rare. Right now, your kind of looks is considered ‘in.’ Go get a haircut and style your hair with some hair gel?”
“No money,” was Jiang Ziya’s blunt reply.
Lu Yang enthusiastically suggested, “How about I give it to you for your birthday this year? It saves me the trouble of having to think of a gift.”
“Forget it. I have no interest in dressing up.”
“If you’re like that, you won’t be able to get married off to someone.”
“It’s fine to not get married off to… Your mom!”
Lu Yang rubbed his jaw, saying, “My mom might actually be very happy.”
Jiang Ziya stuffed the plastic wrapping from the bread into Lu Yang’s mouth and sat down to eat the bread. He got through half of it before he remembered to ask Lu Yang about the girls, and quickly questioned, “Lu Yang, do you remember how many kids my sister gave birth to?”
Lu Yang seemed blank for a moment, and asked back, “Wasn’t it just Jiang Jiang? Did she have another one?”
Lu Yang knew Jiang Jiang, but he didn’t know about Xiao Xue. Jiang Ziya couldn’t help but start to hesitate. From the looks of things, could there really be something wrong with Jiang Jiang? He was still unable to believe so, but even Jiang Jiang herself had admitted that she was stronger than Xiao Xue.
Assuming his sister had never given birth to Jiang Jiang, then since when had the problem started?
“Lu Yang, when did you find out about Jiang Jiang being born?”
Lu Yang frowned and felt that the question was a little strange.
However, seeing how serious Jiang Ziya’s expression was, he tried to earnestly recall the situation, and answered, “Let me think. Jiang Jiang is three years old, which means she was born when we were still in high school. Hm… We became closer in the second half of our first year… What day and month is Jiang Jiang’s birthday?”
Jiang Ziya froze for a moment, his brain a complete blank. Then, a date flickered in his mind, and he let his mouth slip, “The fifteenth of May.”
Lu Yang turned on his smart phone, lowered his head, and started fiddling around with it. After a moment, he said with a quiet voice, “It’s actually not there.”
“What isn’t there?”
“There actually isn’t anything recorded in the perpetual calendar of my phone. You weren’t absent that day. In those few days, I didn’t hear about your sister giving birth either.”
Lu Yang had been a serious cell phone addict ever since high school, and he had a habit of recording things on his phone. Jiang Ziya was also very aware of that. After all, Jiang Ziya had secretly warned Lu Yang “The teacher is coming. Quickly hide your phone,” innumerable times while they were in high school.
“No way. There’s nothing at all…”
Jiang Ziya asked with furrowed brows, “What now?”
Lu Yang frowned as he replied, “On my phone, there are no records at all of you talking to me about ‘Jiang Jiang.’”
As expected, something is wrong!
Jiang Ziya feigned being relaxed as he said, “Perhaps you missed it. There are so many things happening every day. You couldn’t possibly write everything down.”
Lu Yang flatly denied the possibility, “That’s impossible. As long as it involves you, I would definitely have recorded it down!”
“… If you say it that way, it sounds really disgusting.”
Lu Yang gave him a roll of his eyes as he said, “What are you so grossed out about? I even keep records of more than twenty juniors. Having your record is not strange at all.”
Jiang Ziya decided never to tell Lu Yang any embarrassing things in the future to avoid them being recorded down and passed on for a thousand years.
Lu Yang started muttering, “When exactly did I learn about Jiang Jiang… That’s strange, that’s really strange…”
Oh no, now Lu Yang’s suspicions have been raised. Jiang Ziya started to feel that things were not good.
Lu Yang pondered silently for a long moment, and then suddenly said, “Ziya, I seem to remember your sister had a miscarriage before?”
Jiang Ziya was shocked for a moment.
That’s right! Roughly a year ago, when his sister had just found out that she was pregnant, everyone was ecstatic. Though his sister was still young, his brother-in-law was not as young anymore. The two of them liked children and had decided to have one after their financial status had stabilized a little more… At that time, they didn’t have Jiang Jiang yet!
Jiang Ziya had an epiphany. That was his sister’s first pregnancy, and everyone had been full of anticipation. Therefore, at that time, Jiang Jiang couldn’t possibly have been there!
That’s right! Just what exactly was he thinking?
He was twins with his sister, and three years ago, they were both high school students. Moreover, it was only until after graduation that she got married. It was completely impossible for her to already have been pregnant with Jiang Jiang at that time, so Jiang Jiang really didn’t exis—
1 ”Yangchun noodles: For those curious, you can read up on Shanghai cuisine here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shanghai_cuisine. Yangchun noodles feature thin noodles in clear soup without a lot of other ingredients.