Illusions, Lies, Truth Volume 1: Human Doll Contract Part One
Original novel in Chinese by: 御 我 (Yu Wo)
Chapter 2: Jiang Jiang Part 3—Jiu Ge—translated by Raylight
“I’m here, Ziya. Take a look around. Is it gone?” Lu Yang remained vigilant as he asked.
Jiang Ziya rubbed away the tears welling in his eyes, and then he used his hand to cover his right eye, looking around only with his left. However, there weren’t any death gods in the room, and the room had even returned to its former brightness. Sunlight was shining in through the transparent windows, so hot that it could make people sweat.
It was almost like the shocking incident just now had been an illusion. If it weren’t for the broken shards of glass covering the entire floor, it would completely seem as though nothing had happened earlier—other than the fact that Lu Yang still had a sword hovering in the air beside him.
Once he heard those words, Lu Yang gave a sigh of relief and put his fingers down. Oddly enough, the moment he lowered his fingers, the sword started rotating. With every spin, it became a bit fainter, and with a few rounds, it had turned into light and disappeared into thin air.
Jiang Ziya stared fixedly at Lu Yang. He felt that today he had just truly come to know this “old friend.” If he were to say that he didn’t mind the fact that Lu Yang had been hiding these things from him, then he would really be kidding himself.
Being stared at like that by Jiang Ziya, Lu Yang could not even pretend to feign innocence. He merely said with an extremely awkward expression, “Ah, that was my dad’s… No, that was the Purifying Heaven and Earth incantation that my mom taught me. Nothing much to it!”
Purifying what incantation? Even if your mother really taught it to you, would a normal teenager go and remember such a long chant?
“I saw a sword appear beside your fingers,” Jiang Ziya could not help but blurt out. “Moreover, it looked like a Chinese sword from those period dramas!”
Lu Yang froze and let slip, “You can actually see it that clearly?”
Once the words were out, he seemed to regret it. Seeing this, Jiang Ziya did not want to force his good friend, so he straightforwardly changed the subject. “Li Yao, are you okay?”
Currently, the entire floor was covered in shattered glass and looked extremely terrifying. Thankfully, Jiang Ziya had warned everyone in advance, so they had all managed to avoid it in time. As a result, they didn’t seem to be greatly hurt. Jiang Ziya had originally shown concern for Li Yao for the sake of changing the topic, but he discovered that she had actually fainted from fright. He did a quick check with his eyes and determined that she was probably not injured.
“Let’s take them both to the infirmary.” At the moment, Jiang Ziya couldn’t care less whether Lu Yang had used a sword or a gun. He was just worried whether he would be able to carry Li Yao without her falling out of his hands halfway, injuring her heavily when she was originally uninjured.
Lu Yang nodded his head and picked up Lin Zhixiang effortlessly as he stood up. However, Jiang Ziya did not have such an easy time. He tried his best to pick Li Yao up. Although piggybacking her would be less strenuous, securing a fainted person on his back was really difficult!
Those movies I’ve seen in the past with people carrying unconscious people on their backs must be lies! He didn’t even know how to make the other person stick to his back without them sliding off and falling headfirst. That would really cause a serious injury!
Just when Lu Yang was almost unable to continue watching, there was a hubbub in the surroundings. Urgent footsteps and shrieking filled the air. Lu Yang and Jiang Ziya were both stunned and looked around. From a distance not too far away, there were many classmates currently gathering around in shock. Although some wanted to come over and help, the glass on the floor made them hesitate and not know how to approach.
“For them to arrive so slowly, could there have been a barrier dimension…” Lu Yang muttered softly. But he was not even halfway through his words when he suddenly heard a groan from his arms. He looked down and realized that the female student in his arms had already woken up.
Lin Zhixiang gave two groans, and upon opening her eyes, suddenly saw a stranger’s face. She also realized in shock that she was currently being carried, so she immediately shouted, “Who are you? Put me down, put me down!”
She struggled to try to get to the ground, and Lu Yang could only try his best not to let her fall directly onto the floor. Landing on broken glass would be no joke!
The moment she was on the ground, she stepped on broken glass and received a shock. She blanked out for a long while and then suddenly noticed that the person in Jiang Ziya’s arms was actually her classmate. She immediately broke into a shriek, “Li Yao! You—you let go of her!”
Jiang Ziya really wanted to do so, but his conscience wouldn’t allow him to drop a living person onto broken glass. Lin Zhixiang rushed over to him and grabbed Li Yao. Jiang Ziya was more than happy to let go.
“Oh, Zhixiang, you’re awake?” Being grabbed like that, Li Yao also woke up from the shock. She was thoroughly confused as she asked, “Eh? Why am I lying on the floor? Just now, what—“
Lu Yang immediately interrupted, “Just now, the glass exploded. The sound was really loud, so you probably fainted from shock.”
Hearing that, Li Yao said hesitantly, “But I-I thought I saw… Never mind, I guess I fainted.” In the end, she gave up pursuing the matter and chose to turn a blind eye to it.
Seeing Li Yao’s attitude, Lin Zhixiang’s tone softened. She asked gently, “What happened just now?”
Li Yao explained, “When we were in the cafeteria just now, you suddenly fainted. These two classmates were helpfully taking you to the infirmary, but mid-way, the window suddenly exploded.”
Hearing this explanation, Lin Zhixiang also recognized Jiang Ziya as the person whose pants she had spilled Cola on. She awkwardly said, “Sorry…”
“It’s okay.” Jiang Ziya shrugged and said, “We’ll take you two to the infirmary.”
“I’m fine.” Instead of agreeing, she shook her head.
Your face is completely pale, but you still say you’re fine? Jiang Ziya frowned. The more he looked at her, the more certain he was that the outfit that Lin Zhixiang was wearing was exactly the same as what the person in the car accident today had been wearing. Now that even a death god had appeared, who would believe that there was no connection?
Lin Zhixiang was unexpectedly stubborn and persisted in saying, “I’m really fine. Li Yao, when you go to class, help me inform the professor. I’ll just go home to rest.”
Li Yao gave a sound of agreement, but then she said in worry, “Text me when you’re home.”
“Sure.” Lin Zhixiang turned around and thanked the two boys politely, “Thank you so much for your help. I’m extremely sorry to have made you late for your class—“
Before she could finish, an anxious and angry roar came from the side. “What exactly happened here!”
The four turned to look. A familiar-looking director was currently staring at the floor covered in broken glass with his mouth hanging open.
In the end, even if they wanted to go home or to class, they could only follow the director.
Jiang Ziya made a wry face and merely hoped that a reason like “I was on my way to take a classmate to the infirmary when the glass exploded” would satisfy the professor of his class—but no matter how you sliced it, it was as lousy a reason as the bus’s tires going flat!
He was planning to discuss countermeasures with Lu Yang beside him, to see whether they should beg the director to give them the day off. Instead, he saw Lu Yang staring at Lin Zhixiang, who was ahead of them. His fingers seemed to be drawing something in the air, and he was chanting an incantation. He probably did not want to attract attention, so he was chanting very softly and quickly.
Once he finished, Lu Yang turned and saw Jiang Ziya staring at him. He quickly explained, “It’s just a protective incantation. My mom taught it to me.”
I really might secretly ask Lu Yang’s mother about that! Jiang Ziya had a feeling that Lu Yang’s mother would definitely not say the same thing!
Lu Yang said awkwardly, “I was just testing it. You said that you saw her at the car accident, and something strange just happened. I thought this might be useful, like the protective charms from temples!”
Jiang Ziya didn’t ask further, nor did he mention that when Lu Yang had been chanting, Jiang Ziya saw him draw a charm with his fingers. The charm, emitting a faint yellow light, had flown toward Lin Zhixiang’s back, but when it was about to stick on her, she had turned a corner in the corridor. The charm then missed and vanished before it could even hit the ground.
Since Lu Yang didn’t want to talk about it, Jiang Ziya thought that he should just forget about it. He flung his bag over his shoulder and took the lead to follow them. “Let’s go. They’re so far ahead already!”
There was silence behind him for a while, until Lu Yang softly said out of the blue, “The sword is called ‘Slay.’”
Jiang Ziya smiled faintly and shouted, “Let’s go!”
As Jiang Ziya took the books and signed the parcel, he chatted with the distributor’s salesperson. “Are there fewer books this time?”
In response, the salesperson couldn’t help but complain, “Recently, some writers haven’t been releasing any books. I don’t know what they’re doing.”
When I get home, I’ll help you ask Yu Shu. She might actually know. Jiang Ziya silently answered in his mind.
The deliveryman looked around and asked, “Did your boss run off again?”
“Yeah. It’s not like you don’t know that once I come and take over, with someone standing behind the counter, my boss will immediately feel like running away.”
The deliveryman chuckled as he said, “Bookstores are hard to run nowadays. Your boss sure is carefree, though business does seem pretty good.”
Jiang Ziya also felt that this was a mystery. Since high school, he had been working part-time at this bookstore called Jiu Ge, “Nine Songs.” He agreed that his boss was simply too laid-back. Every time he came to work right after class, the boss would say something like “toilet,” “have to put the new books up on the shelves,” or “got to buy a drink” and such. Then, even up until he closed the bookstore at night, he wouldn’t see the boss again.
Thankfully, the boss seemed to have a very wide circle of friends. Many of his friends dropped by to buy books or stationery, though Jiang Ziya felt that his circle of friends was a little too broad. From time to time, people aged eight to eighty would come in to buy books, and would ask about an “Yi-shūshu,” “Yi-gē,” “Xiao Yi,” “Yi laddie,” and there was even an “Is that bastard Ah Yi there.” The wide variety of titles was really stunning.
When the boss had told him good-naturedly, “I am Fu Taiyi. You can call me Yi-gē,” Jiang Ziya had decisively called him Boss.
“I’m done signing it.”
Jiang Ziya tossed the receipt back to the salesman, who didn’t check it and left after taking it. After all, they had been working together for a long time, and ten or so books was not particularly expensive.
At this moment, Lu Yang walked out from the back of the bookstore. He said, “New arrivals? Ah, I want this magazine. I’ll help you shelve the rest.”
“It’s fine.” Jiang Ziya tore open the packaging for the new books and said, “Help me stand behind the counter. I’ll shelve these and take the chance to find a few books.”
“Sure.” Lu Yang walked behind the counter and casually flipped through the magazine. He asked, “Are you looking for reference books?”
Lu Yang asked in shock, “You read novels?”
“Not often, but that’s because I don’t have time to read, not that I don’t like to read them.”
Jiang Ziya placed the magazines on the shelf beside the counter, and following that, began looking around. As he did so, he raised his voice to explain to Lu Yang, who was still behind the counter, “The neighbor across from us is actually a novelist, so I wanted to take a look at her books… Found them!”
“Oh? What’s the book’s name?” Lu Yang shouted in curiosity.
“There are actually quite a few books.”
In fact, there were more than ten books. Jiu Ge was only a small bookstore. Their book selection had never been as complete as a large bookstore’s. For an author to have more than ten books occupying the shelves was considered a lot. Can it be that Yu Shu can actually be considered an author with some fame?
Jiang Ziya felt that this world was simply astonishing. With how the other person behaved, she simply didn’t feel like a famous writer! There must be a mistake somewhere. Perhaps it’s because Boss happens to like Yu Shu’s novels a lot, so he ordered a few?
Not knowing which one to read, Jiang Ziya simply decided to take all of them in one go. He planned to flip through them behind the counter, and it would be best if he could find a familiar character—for example, the one who could brew a good cup of milk tea.
“Is it good?” Lu Yang picked up a book casually.
“Not sure, I’ve never read any before.” Jiang Ziya kept his head lowered as he flipped through the books, saying offhandedly, “Help me find which book has a butler character.”
Although he agreed, Lu Yang put the book down. Jiang Ziya found it a little strange and raised his head to look at Lu Yang.
“Ziya, regarding what happened today…” Lu Yang seemed to be at a loss as to how to begin. Even though they were good friends and asking a few questions was nothing, the main point was that he only wanted to ask Ziya questions but did not want to answer any himself.
“Could you tell me what exactly you saw?”
Jiang Ziya closed the novel and said without any trace of surprise, “I thought that you would pretend that there was no such matter. Do you mean ‘that thing’ I saw after the window broke?”
Lu Yang nodded.
“I saw a death god, the same one who had appeared at the scene of the car accident earlier today.”
Lu Yang was shocked and blurted, “Are you certain that it was the death god from the scene of the car accident? How can you be sure it’s the same one?”
Jiang Ziya blinked and said, “They don’t look the same. Even if death gods appear frequently, each one has different features. The one today had a pair of bloody eyeballs, so it’s very easy to recognize.”
Come to think of it, he remembered that when he was much younger, if he accidentally came into contact with a place with dead people, he mostly only saw Heibai Wuchang, the black and white deities of death.1 He couldn’t remember exactly when it had turned into death gods.
Lu Yang muttered to himself, “So you really could see that clearly…”
“You didn’t see it?”
“I saw a mass of smoke, and within it, there was a skull and a skeletal hand. It did indeed look a little like the death gods of the legends, and it had a red light in its eye sockets. But, I didn’t see the eyeballs.”
“My left eye is weird and always sees stuff. It’s not like you don’t know that.”
“Yeah.” Lu Yang frowned as he said, “But I didn’t know you could see this clearly.”
Jiang Ziya laughed and said in a relaxed tone, “Occasionally, there are some things that really look like humans, and also, isn’t cosplaying very popular right now? So, I often end up treating fake things like real people, or those cosplayers like fakes. I’ve ended up making a fool of myself a lot of times.”
“I don’t feel like you’ve made a fool of yourself before.”
Jiang Ziya fell silent for a moment before saying, “By the time we met, it was already high school. By then, I had already trained myself to keep my composure no matter what I saw. If I still got it wrong, then I would say, ‘just kidding’ and pass it off as a joke. Not many people would pay it much attention.”
At this point, he was half-smiling as he said, “Except for you, this bored fellow who likes to get to the heart of the matter.”
Lu Yang too smiled. Thinking of their high school days, the gap between the two of their personalities was simply too large, and they had not interacted at all with each other. Until that time—
Drrrr, Drrr, Drrrr….
Hearing the notification sound, Lu Yang immediately dug his phone out of his pocket to look. Jiang Ziya was about to sarcastically say “Smartphone addict” again like usual, when he noticed that Lu Yang’s expression had suddenly darkened.
“What’s wrong?” Jiang Ziya asked in worry.
“The condition of that female classmate who was in a car accident suddenly worsened. It seems that she has already passed away.”
Jiang Ziya’s eyes widened, and he exclaimed, “Wasn’t she fine? How did it turn out this way so suddenly?”
Lu Yang shook his head, saying, “I don’t know. It’s news that my junior sent to me. She doesn’t know the exact cause either and is currently crying with the others.
“Ziya, if you see the death god again, stay away from it. The farther, the better!”
“… Who wouldn’t stay far away when they see a death god?”
Lu Yang chuckled and said, “That’s true. Hmm, I’ll end my stay with you in the bookstore here. I still have things to do at home today, so I’ll be leaving first.”
After Jiang Ziya gave his reply of “okay,” Lu Yang immediately turned to leave. Jiang Ziya felt that Lu Yang was leaving very straightforwardly today. Normally, doesn’t he like to hang around at the counter, refusing to leave? Even when Lu Yang received messages from his family asking him to go home, he would usually hang around a little longer before leaving unwillingly.
Even the boss had said that it was as though he had hired two part-time students with the salary of one, a total bargain.
Jiang Ziya looked at Lu Yang’s back. A faint, ancient sword had appeared by his side. Jiang Ziya suddenly had the feeling that something was amiss. He quickly called out and stopped Lu Yang, asking, “Hey! You aren’t trying to find that death god, are you?”
Lu Yang paused and turned back with a smile, saying, “What? Who would go looking for a death god? Are you stupid?”
Jiang Ziya also hoped that he was just being dumb, rather than Lu Yang being dumb enough to seek out that death god.
But, what exactly is the purpose of Lu Yang’s ancient sword? Why has it appeared…
“Give me a call tonight. I have something to tell you.” Jiang Ziya still felt worried.
Lu Yang looked at him curiously, but he merely answered with an “okay” before hurriedly leaving. He actually didn’t get to the bottom of the matter like usual, and he didn’t notice even when he brushed shoulders with an elementary school student carrying a backpack.
The elementary school student turned his head, asking, “Where is he going in such a hurry?”
This was the boss’s son, Fu Jun. Both Jiang Ziya and Lu Yang knew him.
“Going home to help out.” Jiang Ziya casually asked, “You got out of school pretty late today, huh?”
“I was helping a classmate who had fallen behind in their studies with their math homework. Where’s Taiyi?” Fu Jun looked around and said in dissatisfaction, “He ran off again?”
Unless it was in front of outsiders, Fu Taiyi and Fu Jun never addressed each other as father and son. When Jiang Ziya had first started working here, the boss had introduced Fu Jun as his son. However, now that he was more familiar with them, the two didn’t address each other as father and son in front of him anymore.
Fu Jun would always directly call his father “Taiyi,” and the boss would very strangely call Fu Jun “Xiao Dong.” Something about how it was his childhood pet name.
“What kind of excuse did he give for running away again?” Fu Jun said unhappily.
“None. When I arrived, I merely lowered my head to put my backpack down. Then, when I looked up again, he was gone.”
“Not even giving an excuse anymore!” Fu Jun frowned and cursed, “This fellow is really getting more and more ridiculous. This morning, he wanted to stay in bed, so he called me to come and open the store, saying that it’s no big deal even if I were to be late for school—”
Drrrr, Drrr, Drrrr….
Fu Jun frowned and took out his phone from his pocket. He lowered his head to look at it.
Nowadays, it seems like everyone is a smartphone addict. Jiang Ziya sighed once again.
“Bastard!” Fu Jun gritted his teeth and scolded.
“What’s wrong?” Jiang Ziya felt like he was asking a question that he already knew the answer to. Generally speaking, Fu Jun could be considered a polite student. The only person that could make him break into insults nonstop would be his father, Fu Taiyi.
Fu Jun raised the phone to Jiang Ziya’s face. What was written was, “Taiyi says: Xiao Dong Dong, I want to eat seafood noodles for supper tonight. Remember to help me cook!” Following that was even an animated sticker that was continuously giving out hearts.
Drrrr, Drrr, Drrrr….
Taiyi says: “Ah, I forgot to mention. Remember to wash my favorite shirt, the blue and black striped one. I’m wearing it tomorrow.”
Drrrr, Drrr, Drrrr….
Taiyi says: “Also, don’t forget to wash the matching suit pants!”
Drrrr, Drrr, Drrrr….
Taiyi says: “I want prawns in my seafood noodles!”
Fu Jun threw the phone at Jiang Ziya and said expressionlessly, “I’ll lend you my phone for five days to play with. Don’t return it to me. In a while, I’ll give you the charger.”
Fu Jun was probably the elementary school student who least wanted to own a smartphone.
1 “Heibai Wuchang”: (黑白無常, literally “Black and White Impermanence”) They are two deities in charge of escorting the spirits of the dead to the Underworld. One of them is dressed in black and is known as the Black Guard. The other one is dressed in white and is known as the White Guard. For more information, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heibai_Wuchang.