Illusions, Lies, Truth Volume 1: Human Doll Contract Part One
Original novel in Chinese by: 御 我 (Yu Wo)
Chapter 4: Lu Yang Part 1—The Appearance of a Death God—translated by Raylight (proofread by Trespasserby, EvlNabiki, C/E edited by lucathia)
We have to face the person sooner or later. Rather than being ambushed, we might as well face it head-on! Lu Yang placed Slay in front of his chest, getting ready for battle, though he hoped that it would not come to that.
Jiang Ziya was at a loss as to what he could do, but he continued to stand beside Lu Yang. It seemed that Lu Yang preferred that he stand behind him, but although Lu Yang expressed that with his eyes several times, it was of no use. Therefore, Lu Yang could only just let Ziya be.
Under their scrutiny, a bark of laughter came from the window. “Really, to think that I would actually still get discovered. It seems like I underestimated the truth-seeing eye after all.”
Jiang Ziya felt blank for a moment. He didn’t think that he would hear this phrase coming from the other person’s mouth. Yu Shu truly had not deceived him; his left eye really was this “truth-seeing eye” thing, even though he didn’t think that his own left eye was worthy of that name. Why would an eye that would always see various strange things be called the “truth-seeing eye?”
The other person walked onto the balcony. He was dressed in a very elaborate Chinese robe. It was black-based with a golden trim. His hair was even tied into a bun, and he was wearing a similarly styled, black-based coronet lined with gold. It looked like an outfit from ancient China, but it was simply difficult to tell which dynasty it was from. At least, Jiang Ziya and Lu Yang were unable to tell. The most the two could recognize was the clothing from the Qing Dynasty, and they could possibly vaguely recognize the female gauze clothing of the Tang Dynasty. As for the other dynasties, those fashions weren’t even a blip on their radar.
The person was even wearing a golden mask on his face. It had designs on it as though it was mottled, and the nose was especially sharp, like a crow’s beak. Although he was masked, he was probably male, judging from his figure.
He leaned on the railing in a relaxed fashion and said, “Don’t be nervous. We are not the ones who created this place. We merely made a ‘door’ to here. I don’t have a strong enough ability to create this barrier dimension.” He muttered softly, “Not yet.”
“What kind of person are you?” Although he asked in such a way, Lu Yang was unable to confirm if the other person was human.
“You don’t need to know who I am,” was the reply from the other. “This is not your goal, so there’s no need to complicate things. Take what you want with you, and then forget it all.”
“What I want?” Lu Yang was unable to understand this. All he knew was that Jiang Ziya had gotten into trouble, and he had come to help him out. Now that he was beside him, all that was left was getting out of here.
Jiang Ziya, however, understood what he meant. He shouted, “Are you the one who captured Xiao Xue? Return her!”
The corner of that person’s mouth turned up, and he seemed to be in a mysteriously good mood. He raised his index finger and gestured behind the two of them—the death god!
“SHIT!” Lu Yang cursed. He already had an utter lack of confidence in handling the guy on the balcony. Now that an extra death god had appeared, he could only hope that the other person would follow his word and let them leave.
There was actually someone in the arms of the death god. The death god landed on the ground, placed the person it was carrying down, and then slowly moved back a step.
“It’s Lin Zhixiang!”Jiang Ziya immediately rushed out. Lu Yang was unable to stop him in time and could only follow.
“She’s still alive!” Jiang Ziya exclaimed as he bent down to check. He heaved a large sigh of relief at that. After all, he was the one who had lost her just now. If something really were to happen to her, he would probably have a guilty conscience for the rest of his life.
Lu Yang felt much more relaxed at that. Other than feeling happy that their classmate was still alive, he also faintly felt that the other person might truly let them go free. However, he still remained cautious as he watched the death god in front of him. He asked in a low voice, “What did you all do to her?”
He was unable to believe that they would make such a large move just for the sake of taking away a girl for a few moments, and then return her unscathed.
Even if they were not the ones who had made this barrier dimension, it would still take a tremendous amount of effort to create a door to enter someone else’s barrier dimension!
The death god remained silent as usual. Instead, it was the mottled masked man on the balcony who started to explain, “My family’s Si Ming made a mistake by retrieving the wrong soul.” He gave the other a reprimanding glance and then continued his explanation, “Therefore, he must make up for his mistakes and retrieve the right soul as well as return the wrong one.”
Si Ming? Jiang Ziya froze. He seemed to have heard a similar name before from somewhere.
The masked man seemed apologetic as he said, “Because of carelessness on our side, a portion of this girl’s soul has been taken away. The rest would not stay inside her body stably, so she was targeted by certain things. This resulted in today’s events.”
“When you say certain things, do you mean the things chasing us in the supermarket?” Jiang Ziya questioned, “Weren’t those dispatched by you two?”
“Definitely not.” The masked man replied sincerely, “When I discovered that you all had been trapped here, the only thing I did was make a ‘door’ and then get Si Ming to find you all. It’s too bad that Si Ming only found the two of them. You’re very good at hiding, so he was unable to find you. Therefore, I made an exit, hoping that you would find it. Thankfully, things unfolded as I wished for them to.”
Retrieved? Returned? Door? Jiang Ziya really couldn’t understand a thing. Since Lin Zhixiang was fine, if Xiao Xue was also safe, then it would be—
Lu Yang angrily said, “Retrieved the right soul? So as expected, he was the one who killed the girl in the hospital?”
The masked man sighed as he said, “You are mistaken. Si Ming did not kill her. He merely retrieved her soul.”
“Merely retrieved?” Jiang Ziya stood up and roared in anger, “He dragged a girl away while she was still alive and kicking! She struggled so much that all her fingernails dropped off, and all the flesh and skin of her fingertips were worn down to nothing. She was using the bones of her fingertips to clutch at the ground, struggling not to be dragged away. Do you call this ‘merely retrieving her soul?’”
Lu Yang froze at that. He looked at Jiang Ziya unbearably. Although he had known that Ziya would see such things, Ziya had never described them in such detail, especially the more horrifying scenes. Every time he had asked Ziya about it, he would always say that he was used to it. However, how would anyone be able to get used to something like what Ziya had described just now?
Lu Yang made a decision on the spot that if they got out safely, he would make Jiang Ziya clearly tell him about everything, no matter what he saw, so that he would not bottle it up!
The masked man sighed.
“Retrieving souls is Si Ming’s duty. However, how they leave the human realm is the decision of the humans themselves. This girl was sure that when she passed away, she would be dragged into hell cruelly by a death god, so a death god appeared and the scene you spoke of occurred.”
He smiled faintly and said, “You have blamed the wrong person.”
Jiang Ziya was stunned. He was unable to verify the truth of that statement and merely turned to shoot a glance at Lu Yang. The latter however was also frowning, deep in thought.
“As for the one in the hospital, it seems like the way she left was greatly different.”
The masked man nodded at the death god. A gust of wind suddenly blew around the death god, making the robe-like or smoke-like darkness that cloaked him billow.
However, the death god did not approach them. He merely stood on the spot, and the billowing robe gradually gathered. The color became lighter and lighter, and his skull started growing skin and flesh. Pale white strands of hair appeared on top of his head, and then he actually became a person. He was wearing an outdated printed cloth outfit, with wrinkles covering his face. He was just like an elderly village woman who was currently looking amiably at Jiang Ziya and Lu Yang.
Both of their eyes turned wider by twice their size.
With an air of amusement, the masked man said, “Oh, it seems like she had a very good relationship with her deceased grandmother and left together with her. It’s a pretty good way to leave!”
Deceased grandmother… Jiang Ziya suddenly thought of his mother. If it were him, would he also follow his mother and leave? That seemed like a rather good way—no! He definitely wouldn’t go. He couldn’t leave his sister here by herself!
“Why must you retrieve her soul?” Jiang Ziya indignantly protested. He had a twin sister, while that girl must also have family members waiting for her!
“Why must humans die?” the man asked instead. “Do you know what will happen if her lifespan reached its limit but no one went to retrieve her soul? Could it be that the time that girl spent lying in the hospital bed was not long enough for you to understand the consequences?”
Jiang Ziya and Lu Yang were both stunned.
He sighed and continued, “The two of you may leave. You are unrelated to everything. As for this girl, there will be no further problems. She will not encounter such events again… Oh, wait, you can’t leave yet—”
The masked man suddenly jumped down from the balcony. It was impossible to tell how he had moved, for they only saw a gray shadow rapidly moving in. He actually reached the two of them in the blink of an eye. Lu Yang immediately called for Slay, but the masked man raised a hand to stop him.
“Don’t move. I have no ill intentions. All I merely wish to do is to return something to him.” He pointed at Jiang Ziya.
Hearing that, Lu Yang instead put down Lin Zhixiang and immediately stood in front of Jiang Ziya. He had completely no intentions of allowing the man to meet with Jiang Ziya face to face. That person merely smiled faintly. He took out something and handed it over.
“I believe this should be yours?”
Jiang Ziya looked down at it. It was a doll with white hair, large blue eyes, and pale skin. On her body, she was wearing a finely made Western dress. Although the doll had been kept in good condition, she still had some unavoidable dirt and dust from contact. Overall, she looked like she had several years on her.
“It is mine. That’s correct,” Jiang Ziya calmly said.
Lu Yang turned to glance at him, finding it a little strange. However, he ultimately did not say anything. It was just that when Jiang Ziya walked out from behind him and extended his hand to take the doll, Slay was at his side, ready to slice things up at any moment.
As Jiang Ziya took back the doll, Lu Yang asked cautiously, “Can we leave now?”
The masked man gestured with both of his hands and answered, “Go ahead.”
“Where is the exit?” Lu Yang asked, holding back his anger.
“Wherever you came from, you return the same way. Isn’t that something very simple?”
Jiang Ziya automatically turned around. Inside the supermarket, it was well lit and looked vastly different from the world outside that was raining ash. He quickly patted his good friend’s shoulder and exclaimed, “Lu Yang! There are people in the supermarket. They’re real humans!”
Lu Yang gave an “oh” and replied, “Let’s go. Help me carry this girl.”
Jiang Ziya was about to reply that he still had to carry Xiao Xue, but seeing how alert Lu Yang was, he merely placed the doll on Lin Zhixiang’s stomach and then lifted her up.
“Are we leaving now?” Jiang Ziya tried asking.
Lu Yang urged, “Yeah. Go on ahead of me with her.”
Hearing that, Jiang Ziya could only take the lead and go into the supermarket. The moment he walked in, he looked back with an expression that was full of shock. Ignoring the odd glances he got from the people around him, he placed Lin Zhixiang on the ground and attempted to go back. Although he went through the automatic glass doors, he did not manage to return to the area where Lu Yang was.
Jiang Ziya walked back into the supermarket once more. He stared at the glass door. Even though he was unable to reach Lu Yang, it seemed like he was able to see him.
“That idiot.” Lu Yang couldn’t hold back his smile as he shook his head. He took a large step, intending to head over, but the person behind him called for him to stop.
“Don’t go yet.”
It seemed like this current crisis would not pass so easily. Lu Yang’s heart sank, but Slay slowly rose upwards. He turned around, already prepared to fight a large battle.
The masked man, however, remained unmoving. He looked like he had no intentions of fighting in the least. As for the death god to the side, he also continued to stay in his position, slightly further away, and did not come over.
The masked man said in a quiet voice, “You must have him stay away from inauspicious things. Those things chasing them in the supermarket weren’t originally that strong, but he saw them…”
“So what if he saw them?” Lu Yang could not understand and said, “Ziya didn’t do anything.”
A faint smile appeared on the other party’s face, and he looked to the side, saying, “Take a close look at your sword again.”
Lu Yang twisted his head to look at Slay and was shocked speechless. Although he had kept Slay by his side on alert all this time, he hadn’t had the time to observe it in detail until now.
Lu Yang couldn’t resist reaching out his hand to touch it. His fingers still went through it like usual. It was just that it felt a little strange, as though the air there was especially concentrated, but he was still unable to touch anything.
But Ziya was right. The sword hilt really was ruyi-patterned.
Lu Yang finally understood that Jiang Ziya’s eye seemed to not only have the power of seeing… He turned around to look at the person who had given him the reminder, but there was no one in his surroundings, just him and the silent world of falling ash.
Lu Yang immediately turned his head. Behind him, Jiang Ziya was pounding on the door with his fists, and his expression looked extremely anxious. However, the moment he pounded the door, the automatic doors opened, making him even more panicked.
“Slay, give me strength…” Lu Yang couldn’t resist muttering, “Give me strength!”
Once the automated doors opened, Lu Yang walked into the supermarket.
Jiang Ziya finally relaxed and immediately started cursing, “I was going to be scared to death! Why did you take so long to come out?”
Lu Yang patted his shoulder, then walked past him and told the people behind him, “My apologies, the person lying on the floor is our classmate. She suddenly fainted just now. Could I ask someone to help call for an ambulance?”
Jiang Ziya looked back. Behind him was a supermarket employee with a downright awful expression, and a few customers who were looking at him strangely.
“I’m sorry. We didn’t know what to do, so we panicked.” Lu Yang requested with an apologetic expression, “Please help call an ambulance.”
Upon seeing that, Jiang Ziya immediately lowered his head so he would look apologetic. The store employee then glanced down at the girl on the floor, and his gaze softened. He nodded and said, “I’ll go make a call immediately.”
The whispers of the customers drifted over, “I thought that he did something to that girl. It’s good that they just need an ambulance. That man was really scary just now…”
Jiang Ziya’s face flushed red, and he didn’t dare to raise his head at all, until he heard Jiang Yu’s voice coming over the phone.
“Ziya, are you done? We bought late night snacks already!”
“My sister called to say that they’re at the supermarket, and they’re asking me to head out.”
Jiang Ziya felt that it was not right at all to just leave Lin Zhixiang and Lu Yang here, but… He peeked at the doll that was beside Lin Zhixiang. Before, when he had looked back and realized that Lu Yang had not gotten out, he had placed Lin Zhixiang on the floor anxiously. The doll had fallen to the ground at that point.
Lu Yang gave an “oh” and answered, “You can go first. I’ll stay here and wait for the ambulance. Judging from her complexion, there shouldn’t be any problems. Don’t worry about it.”
“Okay, then I’m going ahead.” After saying so, Jiang Ziya immediately ran to pick up the doll. Faced with Lu Yang’s calm expression, he was a little at a loss as to what to do as he said, “Bye! Uh, this is a doll that my sister had from before.”
He gave Lu Yang his explanation, and thankfully Lu Yang did not question him further. He merely nodded his head and waved, saying, “Good night. I’ll see you tomorrow in class.”
“Oh, okay.” Jiang Ziya looked at him, finding it a bit strange. He thought that Lu Yang would definitely ask him about it, but in the end he actually managed to pass his inspection so easily.
Hugging the doll, Jiang Ziya stepped out of the supermarket under the odd gazes of the people behind him. He walked very slowly, and as he did so, he whispered, “Xiao Xue? Quick, turn back to your original form. My sister and the others have arrived!”
The doll in his arms suddenly twitched, scaring Jiang Ziya. He forced himself to resist the urge to throw away the doll. He continued to allow the doll to twitch in his arms.
“Slower… Gē, walk slower…” the doll in his arms tried her best to say.
Jiang Ziya felt that he was practically already walking at the pace of someone in outer space. From behind him, he could feel several looks of suspicion directed at him. The one with the sharpest stare was definitely Lu Yang. If he were to go any slower, he would probably be treated as someone who was zoning out on drugs!
He could only stop and look around, pretending to be checking where the car was parked, even though Jiang Yu had already mentioned earlier that they were parked to the left.
The feeling in his arms became stranger and stranger.
A doll and a real girl would feel completely different to the touch, but what Jiang Ziya was currently feeling was a mixture of the two very different feelings at the same time. Some parts were cloth and soft cotton, while some were instead smooth skin and bouncy muscle. There were even junctions…
Jiang Ziya tried his best to empty his mind. He didn’t dare to look down. He didn’t want to think of her “transformation” process every time he looked at Xiao Xue in the future.
“Are you done?” Jiang Ziya only dared to ask when he felt that it was about time.
“I’m done,” Xiao Xue said softly.
Jiang Ziya looked down. In his arms, it was indeed a cute three-year-old girl—if you excluded the joints.
Xiao Xue turned around and hugged Jiang Ziya tightly. She sounded frightened as she said, “Gēge really came to save me!”
Save her… Actually, I didn’t do anything. He abruptly recalled their next-door neighbors, Yu Shu and House Keeper, and remembered that the reason behind his trip to the supermarket was their promise. Jiang Ziya momentarily felt his chest clench.
“The two of you sure get along very well!”
Jiang Ziya raised his head. He saw his sister standing beside a blue SUV, smiling while hugging Jiang Jiang. The little girl stared at the two of them with wide eyes, just like a child who had no idea what just happened.
“You two get along so well. Take care that Jiang Jiang doesn’t get jealous!” Jiang Yu said with her laughter held in.
Jiang Jiang pouted and protested, “Jiang Jiang has Māma! Not going to be jealous!”
“Sigh, one of them has Gēge and the other has Māma. Bàba is so sad!” Jiang Qibing, who had gotten out of the car, gave a large sigh. At the same time, he took Jiang Jiang from Jiang Yu and placed her in the child seat in the car.
“Bàba has us!” Jiang Jiang said earnestly, “Bàba has it the best. He has all of us!”
Jiang Qibing froze and roared heartily, “What Jiang Jiang said is right! I have a wife, a little brother, and a pair of precious daughters. Really, it’s the best!”
Once Jiang Ziya heard that, his eyes grew moist.
Actually, their situation wasn’t good at all. The siblings’ financial situation had never been good. Although their father would occasionally send some money back, they still had to scrimp and save as well as do some additional part-time work in order to be able to pay for their living expenses, school fees, and the rent of the small apartment.
After his brother-in-law married his sister, not only did he take on the living expenses and the apartment rent, he even took on Ziya’s school fees. The university’s school fees were rather expensive. Even though his brother-in-law did not talk much about his current job, he was always working. If he wasn’t outside working, he would be at home continuing his work.
Just looking at him made Jiang Ziya feel that it was extremely tough. However, he was unable to be of much help. He could only try his best to do well in school, and then occasionally do some part-time work to pay for his textbooks. Those accursed heavy foreign languages books were so darn expensive!
“Let’s go, we’re going home to eat our late night snack!”
Jiang Ziya placed Xiao Xue into the double child seater in the car as well.
The two little girls sat side by side. There wasn’t much space left, and to Jiang Ziya, it was simply too small. He had to place his left arm around the cushion at the top of the child seater in order to feel a little more comfortable.
However, Jiang Ziya did not find it unbearable. He played and chatted with the two little girls beside him from time to time, while his brother-in-law focused on driving in front. His sister would occasionally speak to him, and she would occasionally turn to look at her brother and daughters, with a sweet smile on her face.
At that very moment, Jiang Ziya understood what his brother-in-law meant about his life being “the best.” A life like this might be able to remain unchanged even without Xiao Xue. It was just that the child seat would change from a double to a single. However…
Couldn’t Xiao Xue really become a part of the family?