Illusions, Lies, Truth Volume 1: Human Doll Contract Part One
Original novel in Chinese by: 御 我 (Yu Wo)
Chapter 3: Jiang Ziya Part 2—Sparks—translated by Raylight
Drrrr, Drrr, Drrrr….
Jiang Ziya was stunned for a moment before taking the phone out from his pocket, a little unused to it. Once again, it was a message from the boss to Fu Jun. Although he wanted to turn the phone off and ignore him, he was worried that the boss might actually have urgent business and need to contact his son. If that was the case, at the very least, he could call the landline or go directly to his doorstep to tell Fu Jun.
Taiyi says: “Sob, I want to go back and eat seafood noodles already!”
Too bad the boss didn’t have any proper business.
Should I send a message to the boss to tell him that the phone is currently in my hands? Jiang Ziya felt a little indecisive, especially since he wasn’t very good at using a smartphone…
Jiang Ziya scratched his head at that. Suddenly, a child bumped into his leg. Since he was thinking about other matters, he wasn’t able to tell who had bumped into the other. So, he casually said, “Sorry.”
The child stopped moving for a moment and turned to stare at Jiang Ziya with wide eyes.
Oh no! Jiang Ziya immediately put Fu Jun’s phone to his ear, saying, “Sorry! I’m almost there. Wait a bit more.”
Hearing the “toot toot” sound of the phone, Jiang Ziya said a whole lot of nonsense like “I got delayed” and “Don’t be angry.” The child behind him followed him pace for pace for a while. Then, his attention was pulled away by the small items in a display window, and he did not follow him any further.
Only then did Jiang Ziya’s frayed nerves finally relax. Thank goodness he had managed to bluff his way through. Really, his severe case of zoning out was all to blame. Otherwise, with “that kind of thing,” no matter how you looked at it, there was a problem. There was no way anyone could get confused by it.
The other party only had one leg and moved forward by jumping. On his lone leg, he wore a straw shoe, and he was even carrying an oilpaper umbrella. Jiang Ziya did not dare to observe his face in detail and merely glanced at it. Other than a large eye in the center of the face, there was nothing else there.
To think that he could have mistaken even that, Jiang Ziya felt like punching himself on the spot. Thankfully, the streets tonight were still fairly crowded and drew the other party’s attention away.
He recalled that, when he was younger, the city streets hadn’t bustled with people like they did now. Jiang Ziya had really disliked going out at night then, for it was especially easy to see things that he should not see. Moreover, because there were few people on the streets, the moment he failed at covering up the fact that he could “see” them, there would always be something that would follow him endlessly, and it would take a lot of effort to shake them off.
Unlike the current days, where even if a few “shadows” under the street lamps didn’t look quite right, and Jiang Ziya accidentally glanced at them one too many times, those “shadows” completely did not notice him due to the crowd of people.
Drrrr, Drrr, Drrrr….
Jiang Ziya just happened to see something else that could be human or not and was shocked by the sudden sound. He then remembered that it was the text notification sound of the phone, and now he thoroughly understood why Fu Jun had wanted to throw the phone away.
The boss simply has too much free time! Sending messages non-stop, is he trying to scare someone to death? Jiang Ziya angrily took out the phone and looked at it.
Si Ming1 says: “The mistake has been fixed. However, a small accident occurred. The return was a failure. I will try once more.”
It’s actually not the boss, but who is this? Could it be Fu Jun’s friend? But this way of speaking really doesn’t seem like an elementary school student’s, although Fu Jun doesn’t really act like one either.
Drrrr, Drrr, Drrrr….
Si Ming says: “Sorry, Dong Jun. I sent it to the wrong person.”
… I better turn this phone off for five days and then return it to Fu Jun! Jiang Ziya hadn’t experienced the benefits of using a smartphone yet, but he already felt that the constant “Drrrr, Drrr, Drrrr…” was giving him a headache.
Jiang Ziya felt a pull on both of his legs. He looked down and saw that a pair of twins was each pulling at one of his legs. Their two little faces rose upwards to look at him in unspeakable cuteness. As for who was standing in front of him, other than his sister, who else could it be?
Jiang Yu asked in surprise, “Ziya, why did you come here? I thought you would be home by now! I was just intending to go home and cook noodles as a late night snack for everyone.”
“I’m making a trip to the supermarket for Yu Shu.” Jiang Ziya obediently confessed, “She wants me to help her run errands every week, like buying groceries at the supermarket. She will pay me some wages.”
Speaking of “wages” and thinking of the little girl who was climbing on his leg, Jiang Ziya abruptly felt his heart tighten. He practically did not dare to lower his head to face Jiang Xue.
“Is that so?” Jiang Yu smiled as she said, “The supermarket’s not far away, so I’ll go with you. It’s so late already, so there aren’t a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables anymore. I’ll help you pick the good ones, and if there aren’t any, I’m better at picking substitutes, too.”
Jiang Ziya felt a little unwilling, but it wasn’t due to his sister, but to his own guilty conscience. He didn’t want to face one of the girls clinging onto his leg. However, he didn’t have any intentions to stop Jiang Yu. After all, he would still have to go home after buying groceries, and after returning home, he would have to face Xiao Xue all the same.
He nodded his head in agreement, and the two girls naturally held his hands as they walked, making his mood sink further.
After walking for a bit, Jiang Yu asked in worry, “Ziya, what’s wrong? You look depressed.”
“Nothing’s wrong… Ah! When I was in school today, the glass along the corridor suddenly exploded.” Jiang Ziya felt that it was better to tell his sister first. Otherwise, if the school suddenly decided to meddle and abruptly call home to show concern or the like, the crime of “intentional concealment” would make his sister and brother-in-law nag at him endlessly.
The moment Jiang Yu heard that, she became nervous. She shrieked, “What? Are you injured?”
“I’m fine, I’m fine.” Jiang Ziya quickly added on, “I’m completely unhurt. It was just shocking.”
After sizing up Jiang Ziya for a few moments, Jiang Yu finally relaxed. However, she still murmured in worry, “Is the school not maintaining their facilities well? To think that even the glass of the windows would break. How are people to feel at ease going to school?”
Jiang Ziya looked at Jiang Yu. Although she was his older sister, they were twins after all, so they were clearly the same age. However, he felt that Jiang Yu was a lot more mature than him. She was only just over twenty years old, but she was a housewife through and through already.
The group walked into the supermarket. The shopping list was already in Jiang Yu’s hands, and she picked vegetables, fruits, and daily products from the various shelves with familiarity. Jiang Ziya could only follow her from afar, reduced to being the children’s nanny.
Jiang Ziya lowered his head. Although the two girls were disguised as twins and looked very similar now, he could still tell at a glance that he was holding Jiang Jiang’s hand in his right hand and Xiao Xue with his left. Xiao Xue’s expression was a lot more mature than Jiang Jiang’s, like a small adult’s. The voice that had spoken just now seemed to have come from the left.
Xiao Xue immediately questioned, “What were you up to today?”
“Me?” Jiang Ziya was thoroughly confused. “What did I do?”
She looked puzzled for a moment and asked, “You don’t remember? Jiang Jiang shouted ‘Gēge’ really loudly! Thankfully, Māma was in the kitchen washing up the dishes. We spent a lot of effort before we could convince her that Jiang Jiang had merely fallen down and was crying for her gēge.”
“Jiang Jiang called my name?” Jiang Ziya felt a little puzzled. He did indeed seem to have heard… What had he heard?
“You really don’t know?” Xiao Xue pouted as she said, “Okay, then forget it. Anyways, you’re not allowed to bully Jiang Jiang in the future!”
“Okay.” Jiang Ziya rubbed his nose. Although he didn’t feel like he had bullied Jiang Jiang, he had a guilty feeling for some reason. So, he merely agreed.
Jiang Jiang didn’t seem to have paid any attention to their conversation. She had a tired expression and rubbed her eyes. She then stretched out both hands and coyly said, “Gēge, carry me.”
“Feel like sleeping?” Jiang Ziya picked up and carried Jiang Jiang. She buried her tiny face into Jiang Ziya’s chest and immediately fell asleep.
While carrying Jiang Jiang, Jiang Ziya saw Xiao Xue when he looked down, and felt that he wasn’t being very fair. So, he could only switch to hugging Jiang Jiang with one arm and extended a free hand to hold Xiao Xue’s.
Xiao Xue was so happy that she was all smiles, and she instantly clutched onto him tightly.
Xiao Xue’s hand felt a little strange to Jiang Ziya. Her fingers were jointed, unlike a child’s soft and tender hands. Actually, Jiang Ziya was also able to see her ball joints. She looked rather strange, half-human and half-doll, but even so, Xiao Xue’s blissful smile sent a sharp pain to his heart.
Xiao Xue’s peculiarity was so obvious, it made Jiang Ziya suddenly remember what House Keeper had said. He quickly asked, “If you come to a place like the supermarket, where it’s so bright and crowded, wouldn’t you be discovered? What if someone were to notice?”
Jiang Xue shook her head and replied, “I’ve already come here with Māma many times! It’s fine even if someone were to notice. I can just hide behind Jiang Jiang, and everyone would think that they were mistaken.”
Jiang Ziya pondered about it. It was true, for she was only a child and people probably would not pay her too much attention. Even if she seemed a bit off, people would treat it as the children playing around. For example, he often saw children running around in pants that had devil tails on them. However, House Keeper was an adult, and moreover, he was an eye-catching person. It would probably be very difficult for him to just pass it off.
“Gēge, today people from preschool came to ask if Jiang Jiang and I want to go to class! But Māma says that she can teach us on her own and would send us to school when we are five.” Xiao Xue raised her head and asked expectantly, “Gēge, can I become like Jiang Jiang before I turn five?”
You might possibly never become a real person. The butler is coming to burn… Jiang Ziya shook his head and said, “I don’t know.”
Xiao Xue looked down in disappointment. She said, “If I can’t become like Jiang Jiang when I’m five years old, then I can only pretend to be sick and stay at home, and can’t go with Jiang Jiang to school.”
Jiang Ziya felt another stab to his heart and diverted the topic, “Where did your mother go? Didn’t she say that she was going to get soy sauce? Why is she taking so long—hm?”
He abruptly saw a familiar silhouette. The other person was carrying a shopping basket, but there was nothing inside. She was standing like that in front of a shelf, her head raised. It was uncertain what she was looking at. Even if you were to say that she was choosing something, her eyes were looking ahead of her, dazed, so she didn’t look like she was selecting anything at all.
I remember she seems to be called Lin Zhixiang…
Jiang Ziya felt that this female classmate seemed as though she was in her own world. She seemed rather inattentive. That afternoon, she had spilled cola on him, and now she was spacing out in the supermarket. Moreover, it was to the point where she didn’t notice anyone around her. A few people had gone to the shelf she was standing in front of and taken items from there, and they could not help but shoot strange glances at her.
“Gēge, what’s wrong?” Xiao Xue shook Jiang Ziya’s hand and asked, “Weren’t we looking for Māma?”
Jiang Ziya glanced at Lin Zhixiang again, and she was still in a daze. However, he dispelled the thought of going up to talk to her. Given that he still had not figured out what to do with the problems in his family, and on top of that, he had just discovered that Lu Yang seemed to be harboring a great secret too, he simply didn’t have the leeway to care about other people’s problems.
“Yes, we’re going to look for your mom.”
He was just about to turn around, when Xiao Xue suddenly grabbed his hand tightly, shrieking, “Gēge!”
“Hm?” Jiang Ziya looked down. Before Xiao Xue could reply, the surroundings abruptly turned dark. However, it was not complete darkness, for the lights were still bright. It just felt as though there was a piece of black paper covering them, so the light was mostly covered, making the surroundings a little dark.
This situation was not foreign at all.
Could it be…? Jiang Ziya turned back to look. That spaced out female classmate was still standing at the same spot and had not noticed the strange situation. Other people around her didn’t seem to notice it either. It looked like it was indeed something that only his “left eye” could see.
Xiao Xue cowered by Jiang Ziya’s feet. This made him feel rather surprised. Isn’t Xiao Xue a ghost doll herself? What is there for her to be afraid of?
“Xiao Xue, are you scared?” Jiang Ziya was at a loss as to what to do. He could still see her ball joints, but he could also see the fear on her face.
Xiao Xue nodded her head hard.
“Gēge, where’s Māma? I want Māma!” He didn’t know when Jiang Jiang had woken up, or whether she had noticed the strange situation, but she anxiously called for her mother.
Jiang Ziya then realized what the most important thing to do was. Without regard as to whether it would attract attention to them, he immediately looked all around and shouted loudly, “Sis, Sis! Where are you?”
Jiang Yu didn’t appear. Instead, Lin Zhixiang woke up from her stupor. She looked at Jiang Ziya in surprise, not expecting that she would meet him here.
Seeing how anxious he was, she walked up to him and asked in a concerned tone, “Classmate, what’s wrong?”
I’m fine! You’re the one with the problem!
Jiang Ziya retreated a few steps. As Lin Zhixiang drew closer, the surroundings also grew darker. It was evident that the problem definitely originated from her!
“Nothing, I’m just looking for someone.” Please go to one side and become dark by yourself. Don’t drag others into this!
Xiao Xue was already completely hidden behind Jiang Ziya’s legs. Even Jiang Jiang was getting nervous, though she wasn’t as afraid as Xiao Xue. Instead, she was more like a wild animal whose territory was being invaded and was currently looking at Lin Zhixiang cautiously.
“Ziya?” Jiang Yu walked out from the side of the shelves. She asked nervously, “What’s wrong? Why did you shout so loudly?” She looked at the older one and the two young ones. They all seemed fine. She then relaxed a little.
“Jiang Jiang was looking for you.”
Jiang Ziya immediately put Jiang Jiang into his sister’s hands. He had a feeling that if something really were to happen, the one who would be the most capable of dealing with it would be Jiang Jiang. So, he definitely had to pass her to his sister as soon as possible, just in case.
As for himself, he bent down and picked up Xiao Xue. She was so frightened that her whole body was shaking.
“What a cute pair of twins.” Lin Zhixiang looked at Xiao Xue and Jiang Jiang curiously, and asked, “Are they your little sisters?”
“They are my daughters,” Jiang Yu replied with a smile.
Lin Zhixiang’s eyes instantly widened as she said, “Your daughters? Y-You’re his girlfriend right? You guys had them so early—”
“What?!” Jiang Ziya interrupted unhappily, “She’s my elder sister!”
Lin Zhixiang came to a realization, and then laughed embarrassedly. She apologized, “I’m sorry, I was mistaken. Your sister looks so young! I thought she was the same age as us.”
You’re right, she’s the same age…
Jiang Yu didn’t clarify it either and merely asked with a chuckle, “Ziya, you haven’t introduced this person to me yet?”
“This is Lin Zhixiang, a classmate from school.” After saying that, Jiang Ziya didn’t know what else to say. He and Lin Zhixiang couldn’t even be counted as acquaintances. He couldn’t possibly introduce her as someone who specialized in spacing out and was also being pestered by a death god, could he?
Come to think of it, it’s not as dark anymore?
Jiang Ziya raised his head and sneaked a peek at the light above. It really was much brighter. Only then did he finally feel less nervous. He watched Jiang Yu and Lin Zhixiang introduce themselves in a relaxed manner. It was rare that his sister could speak with a girl her age, so he wasn’t in a hurry to leave.
Due to her having a relationship with a teacher, almost all of her high school classmates in the past were warned by their parents not to get involved with her. Although Jiang Yu would always say that it was something that couldn’t be helped, and that she knew a lot of aunties and mothers in the market, so she wasn’t too lonely, she was, after all, only twenty—no, at that time, she wasn’t even eighteen yet…
Xiao Xue, who was in Jiang Ziya’s arms, also seemed to have noticed that he had relaxed. She grabbed his collar tightly and whispered, “Gēge, let’s hurry and go!”
It’s not over yet? Jiang Ziya’s heart skipped a beat, and he quickly said, “Sis, are you done? We need to rush back soon. There are some things that Yu Shu needs urgently.”
Jiang Yu seemed doubtful as she asked, “Needs urgently?”
She looked down at the shopping cart. It was practically full of items like fresh fruits, soy sauce, table salt, and toilet paper. Which one is urgently needed? Unless it’s the toilet paper… If so, she should go and borrow some from her neighbors and not send someone out to buy it, right?
Jiang Yu rolled her eyes at her brother. This excuse was simply a bit too flimsy.
“You can all go ahead.” Lin Zhixiang could also tell that Jiang Ziya was in a rush to leave. She tactfully said, “It’s late now, so I have to hurry and buy my things, too.”
Hearing that, Jiang Yu sent Jiang Ziya a reproachful glare, and then politely bid her goodbye. “Then, I’ll see you next time. I’ll write down how to make the soup we were talking about and ask Ziya to pass it to you.”
Lin Zhixiang glanced at Jiang Ziya. Although she could tell that the other did not wish to see her, she didn’t know how to reject Jiang Yu. So, she could only nod her head and answer, “Okay.”
Jiang Ziya had been silent all this time. He too knew that it was too obvious that he was in a hurry to leave. He didn’t want to hurt her like this either. However, Xiao Xue was grabbing his neck with a death grip. If he were to stay, he might become the first person in history to be choked to death by a doll.
Jiang Ziya quietly pushed the shopping cart to the cashier. He tried to endure the uncomfortable feeling in his heart, and as Xiao Xue urged him on, they walked to the entrance of the supermarket carrying lots of bags.
The moment they stepped out of the glass doors, Jiang Ziya could not resist looking back. He then inhaled sharply.
Lin Zhixiang was still standing in the same spot. Around her, it was as dark as a starless night. It didn’t feel like she was in a bright supermarket at all. She was practically stuck in a black hole!
Jiang Ziya’s gaze stayed there for a long time before Lin Zhixiang noticed him looking. She smiled and waved at him, but her eyes were lifeless, and her smile looked false. She looked as though she had lost her soul, completely unsettling.
Regardless of how much peril this female classmate is in, this is absolutely none of my business. I don’t know her, and besides, I’m not of any help! Jiang Ziya desperately chanted to himself: Stranger, turn a blind eye to it, not of any help, stranger, turn a blind eye to it, not of any help…
“Ziya, let’s go?”
Jiang Ziya turned around, and a blue, second-hand SUV was parked in front of them. His brother-in-law, Jiang Qibing got off the car and was walking over to help carry the bags.
Jiang Yu said with a small smile, “Even though it’s not far from home, it’s so late already and we have many things, so I decided to call Qibing to drive over and pick us up.”
Jiang Qibing raised an eyebrow and asked, “Ziya, how did you go from dropping by the neighbor’s to dropping by the supermarket?”
“Ah, Yu Shu asked me to help her buy some stuff.”
“Shouldn’t you tell us before going out?” Jiang Qibing said unhappily.
Jiang Ziya gave an “oh” and didn’t dare to say anything more. He really had forgotten to go home and report it first.
In the past, regardless of what the two siblings did, their father didn’t care. So, he was not used to having to report to his parents before going off. He didn’t think that he would now have a brother-in-law who was more than ten years older than him, and furthermore, who used to be their teacher. He instantly became “a brother-in-law slash father” and started to poke his nose into their business.
Jiang Qibing said in worry, “Although this market is very close, let me drive you all here in the future. The news recently has been terrifying, and I don’t feel at ease when you all go out so late at night. Can’t you come over during the day?”
News… Jiang Ziya couldn’t help but think of the situation in the supermarket. If he were to abandon this female classmate right now, and see her in the Society section of the newspaper the next day, would he really be able to treat this as something that was none of his business?
Jiang Yu said to Jiang Qibing with an apologetic smile, “Because there are a lot of promotions after nine o’ clock at night, we came over at this time.”
Hearing that, Jiang Qibing softened a bit, but still said persistently, “You can save on anything, but you can’t compromise your safety.”
Jiang Yu answered back obediently, “Got it.”
“Alright, get in the car.” After Jiang Qibing finished loading the things into the car, he called out to everyone to get on.
Jiang Ziya put one leg inside, but he could not put the second one in even after a long time.
He put Xiao Xue in one of the seats of the double baby car seat and shouted inside, “Sis, Jiěfu, you all go ahead. I remembered there was something I needed to tell Lin Zhixiang. I’ll walk back later by myself.”
Jiang Yu gave a very long “ooh,” and then replied, “Go and tell her something… Hehe! I knew that your attitude was funny. Hehe, okay then! No need to explain more, you’re already twenty. If you want to, go ahead. Go, go!”
Looking at his beaming sister, Jiang Ziya felt truly powerless.
“It’s too late.” Jiang Qibing instead disagreed and said, “I’ll give you ten minutes. We’ll go buy a late night snack nearby and then come back for you.”
“At least give me twenty minutes…”
If he could, Jiang Ziya would rather they didn’t come back at all. However, he knew how stubborn his brother-in-law was, and to convince him to leave would be a huge hurdle. By the time he managed to do so, the girl inside would probably already have reported to hell.
Jiang Yu was deeply worried that her husband would ruin things for her brother, so quickly agreed, “Okay, okay. The steamed dumpling store that I want to eat at is very crowded anyways, so we would have to wait a while. Twenty minutes would be just right.”
Xiao Xue suddenly grabbed Jiang Ziya’s hand and shouted anxiously, “Gēge, don’t go!”
“Xiao Xue, be good. Gēge has something to do, so don’t bother Gēge,” Jiang Yu quickly cajoled her daughter.
“Don’t go!” Xiao Xue clutched onto Jiang Ziya without letting go and buried her face in his chest. She softly scolded, “Gēge is an idiot! Don’t go!”
Jiang Ziya felt somewhat at a loss as to what to do, so he could only say in a small voice, “I’m sorry. I’ll just go and pull her out. I won’t do anything else.”
Xiao Xue fell silent for a moment. Then, she shouted, “I want to go with Gēge!”
“Xiao Xue!” Jiang Yu warned in a low voice.
Jiang Ziya quickly said, “It’s fine. She can go with me.”
“No way!” Jiang Yu made a face. She didn’t want her daughter to be a third wheel.
“Sis!” Jiang Ziya went for broke and said with gritted teeth, “With Xiao Xue around, I would feel less awkward and have more conversation topics!”
Jiang Yu stilled and then covered her mouth as she laughed, “You’re so big already, but you’re still such a coward! Alright, Xiao Xue, go and support your gēge!”
The car drove off, and Jiang Yu even happily waved goodbye to the two of them from the car window.
Jiang Ziya stood at the roadside while hugging Xiao Xue. Behind them, it should have been a bright supermarket, but the road in front of them, which didn’t have many cars, was actually obviously brighter than what was behind them…
“Idiot.” Xiao Xue was on the verge of tears, but they wouldn’t come to her. She wailed, “Gēge is a big idiot!”
Jiang Ziya felt so too.
1 “Si Ming”: 司命 (Sī Mìng) means to follow orders, or fate.