Illusions, Lies, Truth Volume 2: Human Doll Contract Part Two
Original novel in Chinese by: 御 我 (Yu Wo)
Chapter 1: The Busy Patient Part 1—The Missing Classmate—translated by Raylight (proofread by EvlNabiki & Trespasserby; C/E edited by lucathia)
He kept running, panting until he was out of breath. However, he was ultimately unable to shake off the thing that was hot on his heels.
He was completely in the dark over how he had managed to attract the attention of such a thing, since all that he’d done was to head home from school like usual. The only difference would be that today, he was not with his classmate.
His classmate had said that he was visiting someone in the hospital, so his father had picked him up earlier.
On such a rare occasion in which he was left behind on his own, he could only head home by himself. However, it was too boring, so he had simply decided to take a shortcut.
This shortcut merely cut through an alley, saving him the trouble of walking around a huge bend. Moreover, the alley couldn’t be considered isolated, for when he walked through, he could still hear the sounds of chatter coming from other people’s homes. In the past, he’d walked along this path with his classmate several times, but his classmate disliked walking through this area a lot. Therefore, they rarely took the shortcut.
The moment he stepped into the alley this time, a strange feeling arose inside of him. However, a quick glance to the right and left proved that there was nothing unusual. The sky was still bright, and the alleyway was not dark. There simply didn’t seem like there was anything wrong…
After a moment’s hesitation, he walked further in.
In the beginning, he could still idly think about whether he should ask his mom if he could go over to his classmate’s home tomorrow. However, upon walking for several minutes blankly, he finally realized that something was wrong.
… Why haven’t I reached the end yet?
He raised his head uneasily. In doing so, he could see that the exit of the alley wasn’t too far off, so he quickened his footsteps.
The brightly-lit exit was obviously only a mere ten meters away, yet no matter how much he walked, he could not reach it. Panicking, he couldn’t help but start to run. Usually, it would take at most ten seconds or so to cover this stretch of road that was about ten meters long. However, he ran for at least three minutes, yet the distance between him and the exit remained unchanged, still ten meters away. It was practically like he had been running in place.
He became frantic, unsure why things had become like this. His eyes were fixed on the exit of the alley, as his legs moved non-stop. The more he ran, the more he quickened his pace, the more he panicked. Finally, he couldn’t help but choke down his sobs as he broke into tears.
After running and sobbing like this for a while, he was so out of breath that he could run no longer, no matter how afraid he was. He had no choice but to stop in his tracks. He looked around in confusion, hoping that he would be able to see what was wrong, but at the same time, he was scared he would actually see something…
However, he did not see anything, nor did he hear a single sound… Wait! Why isn’t there any sound?!
What happened to the usual sounds of chatter?
At this point, he finally understood the reason for the strange feeling he had when he stepped in.
It was too quiet.
His tears flowed continuously, as he stood rooted to the spot, lost as to what to do next. He was scared out of his wits. It took a long time before he wiped away his tears and then glanced before and behind him. Though the exit ahead was much closer, he was unable to reach it no matter how much he ran, so he decided to take the way back.
It was then that he saw that thing.
That thing was standing at the entrance and broke into a grin the moment it noticed him. Then, it started chasing him ferociously, with the vigor of a hunter that had spotted its prey.
The only thing he could do was to run on without stopping, and to continue running and running. Yet, in front of him was still the exit that forever lay out of his reach. Fear filled his heart, and though he was panting until he was out of breath, he didn’t dare to stop. He could only continue to run and run…
“Xiao Jun, save me—”
Fu Jun frowned as he looked at the wound on his hand.
“Why is it that I can get injured even just peeling an apple?”
Fu Taiyi quickly dished a tissue over and asked, “Do you want to wrap it up? We’re already at the hospital anyway!”
Fu Jun took the tissue from him, but shook his head as he replied, “There’s no need for that. It’s just a small cut, so it should stop bleeding after I put some pressure on it for a bit.”
“Here, let’s put a Band-Aid on that.”
Jiang Ziya held out a Band-Aid. Despite that he was only able to use one hand, his movements were still very nimble, and he had managed to whip out the Band-Aid swiftly from his bedside backpack. He felt very satisfied. It seemed like in a short while, he would be able to return to his classes, as well as do part-time work at the bookstore.
Fu Jun looked at the Band-Aid that was covered in small flower patterns, his face expressionless. He didn’t take it even after a long time. Instead, Fu Taiyi joyfully took it and put it on his son’s finger, even praising as he did so, “Sigh, this Band-Aid is so cute that I almost don’t want to use it.”
“Eh, Lu Yang gave me that. He said that since I have scrapes and injuries everywhere, I’d be able to put it to good use.” Jiang Ziya explained, feeling that he needed to do so, for accusation seemed to be written on Fu Jun’s face.
However, this explanation didn’t seem to have helped things much, for now Fu Jun’s expression became more “earnest” in pouting, looking as though he was inwardly complaining about a certain someone.
“I heard that his female junior gave it to him.” Jiang Ziya added on, to prevent Fu Jun from looking at Lu Yang with this exact same accusing expression in the future.
“So it was a female junior!” Fu Taiyi immediately started grinning profoundly, and even started angling for gossip, “Have you seen that female junior? Is she a nice girl?”
Jiang Ziya could merely continue to explain, “Lu Yang has over twenty female juniors. I don’t know which one of them gave it to him.”
“What? Twenty of them?” Fu Taiyi was so agitated that he stood up from his chair. He said, “He’s being way too much of a flirt! How can Xiao Yang do this? No way, I have to go give him a good talk, and tell him not to let down so many nice girls.”
Urgh… This explanation doesn’t seem to have helped at all.
Jiang Ziya went mute for a few moments, and then decided to give up on salvaging Lu Yang’s reputation.
Besides, it wasn’t like he had much of one to begin with.
“How could he possibly have over twenty…” Fu Jun unhappily told his rampaging father, “They are just his female juniors. Lu Yang-gē doesn’t have a girlfriend.”
Hearing that, Fu Taiyi finally ceased his rampage. However, he still seemed to mind it a great deal as he said, “I’ve still got to nag at him, otherwise he will sooner or later become a playboy.”
Jiang Ziya agreed to that wholeheartedly. Ever since they were in high school, Lu Yang had indeed always been well-connected with many girls, though he was never seen with a girlfriend. At first, he had thought it strange, but now he could kind of see the reason why. Most likely, Lu Yang was too busy running around fighting demons with “Slay” and didn’t have any time for a girlfriend.
After he finished peeling a plateful of apples, Fu Jun conscientiously put it on a table surface that Jiang Ziya could reach easily just by extending his hand. Then, he turned his head and said, “Ziya-gē, eat some apples.”
“Thanks.” Jiang Ziya picked up a slice of apple. Although Fu Jun truly was a good kid that was hard to come by, he still felt a little awkward.
Is this father and son pair really here just to visit me?
Don’t they have any other intentions? Such as explaining what exactly was the matter with that call that saved me? From the moment they arrived, Jiang Ziya had become nervous. No matter how hard he thought about it, he felt that Fu Taiyi and Fu Jun were definitely not ordinary. The two of them were even stranger than Lu Yang!
At least Lu Yang still wielded a sword, even though he had still wound up losing the fight and had been cuffed to the railings on the rooftop, with both of his wrists ending up in a terrible state. Even now, they were still wrapped up like he had two donuts around his wrists. However, these two people had saved them through a simple phone call.
This gap was simply too illogical, so much that Jiang Ziya even felt bad for Lu Yang.
“Boss, don’t you think there’s something that you need to explain to me?” Jiang Ziya couldn’t keep it to himself any longer and decided that asking it himself would be faster!
Fu Taiyi let out an “Ah,” and then said, “Indeed so.”
Jiang Ziya became nervous again. So, what exactly is the true identity of the boss and Fu Jun?
When he and Lu Yang had run into danger on the rooftop, the call had saved them. Although he had heard the voice of the one speaking, it had an inexplicable sound like an echo in the mountains. It wasn’t a normal voice. Of course, he also couldn’t tell whether it was the voice of Fu Jun or Fu Taiyi. But anyways, it was definitely related to the Fu family duo.
At that time, Fu Jun was the one who said that he would give a call, so theoretically speaking, that person should have been Fu Jun. However, he was still an elementary school student! Being saved by an elementary school student would be simply too much of a shock to bear, so Jiang Ziya was more inclined to believe that it was Fu Taiyi—though looking at the boss now, Fu Jun would have been a better option!
While Jiang Ziya was waiting nervously for his “life savior” to reveal himself, Fu Taiyi instead took out an envelope and passed it to him. This thoroughly confused him. Could this be some kind of talisman?
He took it doubtfully and opened it. What was inside, instead, was a stack of cash.
“…” Now isn’t the time to be giving out wages, right?
Jiang Ziya turned to his boss, perplexed. He felt that he wouldn’t feel as bewildered even if the contents had turned out to be an amulet.
Fu Taiyi gave a cough and explained, “You suddenly had to stay in the hospital, and that definitely would cost a little. Even though medical insurance does cover most of it, you would still have to pay for the rest of it and buy some supplements for your health.”
Jiang Ziya was at a loss for words. Indeed, Jiang Yu had recently been brewing nutritional medicine for him every day. The Chinese medicinal soup had never stopped coming, be it for building up his body or spirit or something else. He also had no clue on how the financial situation was at home. This money was something that he had to accept.
“Thank you.” He insisted, “Just treat it as an advance. Remember to deduct it out of my pay.”
Once Fu Taiyi heard that, he scratched his head and commented, “Don’t fret about small things like that! I have been good friends with your father for many years, and he has helped me out before. Now, I am merely returning the favor.”
“… May I humbly ask for your esteemed age?”
Fu Taiyi laughed. “Aha, hiding one’s age is a man’s romance!”
“Boss, you really know my dad?” Jiang Ziya asked, a little disbelieving, “Why haven’t you told me that before?”
He recalled his first meeting with his boss. It was a rainy day, and Jiang Ziya was in the middle of hunting for a part-time job. Since he still had to take the entrance exams that year, he was unable to work for long periods of time, and furthermore, he could only work after school. A job like that was obviously difficult to find, and his efforts in job-hunting showed no results even after a long time.
However, he had no choice but to persevere on. At that time, the financial situation at home was not looking good, not even factoring in his university fees that they would have to pay afterwards. His brother-in-law had insisted that he go to university and had promised to take care of all his study expenses. He had claimed that even if he wanted to go for a Master’s or Ph.D afterwards, it would be fine.
Jiang Ziya, however, could not watch on as his brother-in-law worked himself to the point of barely having time to sleep. Even his sister had household chores to take care of. He could not stand being the only one who was so idle, only needing to merrily go to class and study when he got home.
“Do you want to come and work at my bookstore?”
His boss had appeared at that moment.
At first, he had thought the other to be a salesperson. He was on the verge of replying back, “I don’t need anything but cash,” when the boss pointed at the job recruitment newspaper in Jiang Ziya’s hand, and the boss asked him full of confidence, “You seem to be looking for a job, right? I have a job for you. Do you want it?”
Although it had sounded like the prelude of an abduction scene, Jiang Ziya found himself unable to refuse it. Anyways, he was a healthy and strong high-school student and also not a girl. As long as he stayed cautious and avoided eating anything random, he should be fine.
Afterwards, he had followed the boss to the bookstore. The moment he arrived, he saw Fu Jun, who was manning the store by himself. Jiang Ziya immediately dropped his guard upon seeing a child and completely forgot about not eating anything random. He even drank the cola that the boss gave him.
Thinking about it now, he was thankful that the boss really wasn’t a bad person, or he would probably have been sold off to do hard labor in a mine at some corner of the world.
“Your father asked me to look after you and your sister.” Fu Taiyi said with a faint smile, “I didn’t tell you that your father had asked me to do so because he felt very embarrassed that he‘s unable to take care of you two properly, and he even had to ask his friend to do so. He thought that it was simply shameful.”
That dad of ours actually knows what shame is?!
Jiang Ziya’s face turned dark, and he quickly questioned, “What exactly has Dad been doing out there? Why hasn’t he come home? When my sis started dating my brother-in-law in high school, it was such a big affair that the school demanded to see our parents, but we didn’t know where to look for him at all! We nearly got mistaken for underage orphans and were almost taken away!”
Fu Taiyi shrugged, indicating that he did not know either, and Jiang Ziya decided not to pursue the matter further. Thinking back to that time, that dad of theirs had left home with the reason of “seeking apprenticeship to a master to become immortal.” Regardless of whether that was true or false, he still wanted to give him a good kick in the ass. It was best that he did not ask further to avoid making himself angry.
Jiang Ziya put aside that bit of grievance he had toward his father. For some reason, even though their father was like that, both Jiang Yu and he had never truly hated their dad for all these years. At most, they would just complain about him. Since he had already gone by all these years without hating him, there wasn’t a need for him to start holding a grudge against him now.
What was more important as of now was to figure out who Fu Taiyi and Fu Jun were. Jiang Ziya didn’t want to beat around the bush any further, and was just about to lay his cards on the table when the ringtone of a cell phone interrupted him.
He looked at Fu Taiyi, but instead, it was Fu Jun who took out his cell phone and answered the call. His reply was remarkably polite as he greeted the person on the phone, like he was not speaking to a classmate. He seemed reserved, as though he was speaking with someone older.
“No, I haven’t, Auntie Xie. I didn’t go home with him today.” Fu Jun answered obediently, “Today, I’m visiting someone at the hospital with my dad, so I left earlier … Huh? He hasn’t come home yet? Okay, I will call you if I see him.”
As he hung up, Fu Jun frowned as he said, “The classmate I usually walk home with isn’t home yet. His mother called to check if I’ve seen him.”
“Maybe he ran off somewhere to play? When I walked by an internet cafe the other day, I saw a lot of young kids loitering there,” Fu Taiyi lamented.
Fu Jun shook his head. He replied, “Peilun is very obedient and wouldn’t do that.”
When Jiang Ziya heard the name, he suddenly remembered and asked, “Is it the boy wearing glasses who visited our store several times?”
Fu Jun nodded and explained, “His name is Xie Peilun. He’s in my class.”
Fu Taiyi suggested, “How about when we head back, we can search for him along the path from the school to his house? Since you two frequently head home together, you would know better than us if he had headed elsewhere.”
“But we haven’t gone anywhere else before. At most, we would only go to our store,” Fu Jun muttered, but then nodded his head in agreement.
Fu Taiyi called out, “Ziya, we’ll take our leave now. We’ll drop by again to see you.”
“Hurry and go,” Jiang Ziya answered, for he was also starting to become a little worried.
The impression that the boy gave him was that he was a good child. Although his personality was on the shy side, he would still greet others when he saw them. He was a rather obedient kid. Indeed, he was like how Fu Jun had described him, not the type to loiter after class.
“There’s no need to come back in the future. I should be getting out of the hospital soon. Don’t waste your time.”
If it were possible, it would be best if he could leave the hospital today. Jiang Ziya felt that there wasn’t a need for him to continue being hospitalized. It wasn’t like his injuries were severe to the point where he had to continue staying here.
Although it was a bullet wound, the truth was that the bullet had merely scraped him. If it weren’t for the fact that he had overexerted himself when he went to pull Lu Yang up, causing the wound to tear open and drip a lot of blood in the process, the doctor probably would have shooed him out of the hospital already.
Fu Taiyi nodded, though he addressed uneasily, “Rest well. Don’t overexert yourself.”
Jiang Ziya gave a slightly awkward “Okay” in return. Since he had just found out that Fu Taiyi was well acquainted with his father, that would make Fu Taiyi his elder, and this sudden change felt unexplainably strange to him.
Only after he sent away the two visitors did he realize that he actually had not managed to extract any information out of them.
He could only grudgingly pick up his Foreign Language book. What he was hoping for was studying more while he could, to prevent his grades from falling. Since he was aiming to apply for several scholarships, he could not allow his ranking to drop.
Furthermore, there was one more benefit to focusing on his studies—it allowed him to ignore the peculiarities around him to the best of his abilities.
For example, that shadow squatting in the corner. After the first glance, Jiang Ziya did not dare to look its way again. He still had to stay in this ward for another three to five days, and the consequences would be unimaginable if it were to haunt him.
Not to mention that he actually did not want to look at it further. Although he had merely seen a peek of it from the corner of his eye, and had not seen a lot of detail, the red bloodstain on the shadow was a ghastly sight. It was impossible for him to pretend that he hadn’t seen that clearly.
… I should probably concentrate on studying.
Loud chatter suddenly came from the bed next to him. At first, Jiang Ziya was not bothered by it. He had always been able to seize the opportunity to study anywhere, and this amount of noise really wasn’t much to him.
He didn’t think that the source of the sound would grow gradually louder. Since the curtains were drawn, he was unable to see the situation, but it was unavoidable for him to hear them. From what it sounded like, it seemed to be a quarrel.
It was to the point of being a little exaggerated.
Jiang Ziya could not help but raise his head to take a look. Although this was a ward for four, only three people were staying in it. The patient beside him, behind the drawn curtains, was a middle-aged man. It seemed that he had been in a car accident and had broken his leg. His wife visited him frequently.
As for the bed opposite him, it was an elder. He didn’t know what illness he had, but most of the time, a hospital nurse would be watching over him.
Over the past few days, Jiang Ziya had had the most number of visitors. Needless to say, his sister had dropped by every day. As for his brother-in-law, he would visit occasionally after his work. The two little girls would of course come along.
When he had first been hospitalized, even the police had dropped by to investigate because of the bullet wound. However, Lu Yang had just given a call to a certain policeman that he was well acquainted with, and then the police were all taken care of.
Jiang Ziya was starting to feel like he didn’t know Lu Yang in the slightest.
Since it had been pretty noisy on his side for the past few days, Jiang Ziya decided to overlook the noise on his neighbor’s side. He tried his best to turn a deaf ear to it, though it was simply very difficult to do so, for the quarreling was so loud that even the room adjacent to theirs would be able to hear it.
“My little brother has gone missing, yet you still want me to continue staying here to take care of you!”
“I’m your husband. If you aren’t taking care of me, who else are you planning to take care of? Regarding things on your mom’s side, let the people on your mom’s side deal with it!”
Jiang Ziya raised an eyebrow at that. He suddenly felt that his sister had picked a really good man as her husband. If he, as her little brother, were to go missing, his brother-in-law would definitely be anxiously looking around for him instead of telling his sister to get the people on her mom’s side to deal with it.
“It’s not like I haven’t been taking care of you.” The woman was so furious that she started yelling, “I just want to leave for a bit so that I can help ask around. Is that wrong?”
“If you leave, then how the hell am I supposed to go to the toilet? Are you planning to make me hold it in until I explode?”
“Ask your brothers to come and help out! There’s so many of them, yet not a single one of them came to help on their own! I already told you not to bicker so much with your family members. Now this is just great. Even though you’re in trouble, no one cares!”
“What did you say? When I was bickering with them, I didn’t see you complaining. Now you start to argue…”
At this point, the couple were practically shrieking and roaring at each other. Jiang Ziya simply felt helpless at this situation. Although the hospital nurse for the opposite bed was staring at the curtains curiously with wide eyes, appearing enraptured, she didn’t seem to be planning to do anything about it.
Seeing that people were starting to poke their heads into the ward, Jiang Ziya could only press the call button on the bed. A nurse arrived quickly, her eyes wide. Even before she asked Jiang Ziya what the matter was, she heard the hisses and roars from the other bed.
“You better stay here, or I’ll beat you to death!”
If the man’s leg weren’t broken, Jiang Ziya reckoned that they would have already been performing a full-scale fight scene.
The nurse quickly stepped behind the curtains and requested, “Knock it off. This is a hospital!”
After the nurse told them off, they didn’t dare to talk that loudly anymore, even though they continued arguing non-stop. They had probably realized that they were making fools of themselves.
When the nurse stepped out, she shot a helpless smile at Jiang Ziya.
He quickly seized the chance to ask, “Miss, when can I be released?”
The nurse comforted, “I believe that you should be able to be released tomorrow, after the doctor gives you a check-up. Your wound has recovered very well, and there aren’t any problems, just that you have lost quite a bit of blood. Eat more food that replenishes blood—ah! I believe that I don’t have to remind you about that. Your sister is already doing a very good job with that.”
Jiang Ziya immediately nodded his head vigorously; his sister was indeed so good that there was nothing more to say.
The two girls dashed into the ward, causing the nurse’s eye to sparkle at the sight of them. Jiang Jiang and Jiang Xue were very famous in the hospital right now, known for being a cute pair of twins. Once it was evening, many of the nurses liked to circle around this particular ward, trying to see if they could bump into the adorable pair of sisters.
Usually, these two little girls would obediently let those nurses hug and pat them, as instructed by their mother. Should those nurses like them, they might treat their brother better.
This time though, Xiao Xue evaded the nurse and leaped directly at Jiang Ziya, who was in bed. Only Jiang Jiang stayed and obediently let the nurse rub her head.
Jiang Ziya hugged Xiao Xue and realized that she was actually shivering. He asked in confusion, “What’s wrong?”
Xiao Xue flinched but did not say anything.
Jiang Yu followed behind them and worriedly said, “I don’t know what’s the matter. Xiao Xue was unwilling to take a single step away from my side all day. Even when I wanted to go to the bathroom, she would insist on following me in.”
The moment Jiang Ziya heard that, he knew that something must be wrong. Neither little girl in his family was normal, so if she clung to her mother and refused to take even a single step away, then it must be that in the moment she stepped away, something dangerous would happen.
However, Jiang Yu’s presence here made it difficult for Xiao Xue to explain.
“Sis, I’ve been craving potato chips. Could you go to the convenience store downstairs to help me buy some?”
“I brought you dinner. Don’t eat any more snacks,” Jiang Yu said in disapproval.
“I plan to eat it later at night, not now.”
When Jiang Yu heard that, she decided not to argue anymore. Having some late night snacks around wasn’t a bad thing, either. Seeing Xiao Xue still sprawled on top of Jiang Ziya, she asked curiously, “Xiao Xue, do you want to come along?”
Xiao Xue shook her head and said, “I’ll be fine with Gēge.”
This was actually the first time Xiao Xue had been willing to leave her side the entire day. Jiang Yu felt a little more relieved at that. She then took Jiang Jiang downstairs with her to buy some snacks.
Jiang Ziya whispered, “What’s wrong?”
Xiao Xue hugged him in a death grip, crying as she said, “Gēge, the neighbors want to kill me!”