Illusions, Lies, Truth Volume 2: Human Doll Contract Part Two
Original novel in Chinese by: 御 我 (Yu Wo)
Chapter 2: Confused; Confined by Part 2—The Ancient Pathway—translated by lucathia (proofread by Trespasserby & EvlNabiki)
As he left the hospital, Jiang Ziya looked at his injured arm. The bandages keeping his arm in place had already been removed. Actually, it barely hurt anymore. It only hurt a bit when he moved it too much.
He got in a taxi, originally wanting to go straight home. However, he thought it over and was still a bit worried about what was going on with his brother-in-law’s job. If he went on an unannounced inspection right now, would he be able to come across some of the truth?
He had already begun dithering over it in the hospital room, and when the taxi driver asked him for his destination, Jiang Ziya hadn’t even made a decision, yet he blurted the name of the street where his brother-in-law’s company was located.
The taxi driver responded and began driving. Jiang Ziya could only smile wryly to himself. He really did want to go take a look after all. Currently, he also had his left eye he could use. I should at least be of some use, right?
As the thought occurred, Jiang Ziya grew spirited. This left eye had been a thorn in his side since he was young. Now that it was finally useful, he couldn’t help feeling victorious after all his troubles.
Through the corner of his eye, he suddenly spotted someone familiar. He blurted, “Stop the car!”
The taxi driver was no amateur. With the sudden shout to halt, he jerked the steering wheel, jamming the car right into a small space by the roadside. Behind them, a motorcycle nearly didn’t react in time, almost crashing into them. The motorcyclist yelled at their window, only leaving belatedly when he saw the driver ignoring him.
At this time, the driver scolded, “Young man, next time, don’t yell for the car to stop so abruptly. That’s dangerous!”
Jiang Ziya had almost been scared to death, too. He had seen someone he knew, so he had abruptly called for the car to stop. However, he hadn’t wanted the driver to pull over to the shoulder so abruptly. Parking a bit farther and having to walk a few steps more made no difference!
Frowning, he paid and got out of the car, glancing at that familiar back in the distance. Luckily, the other person seemed preoccupied and hadn’t even noticed the car accident that had almost played out over here, instead walking with a lowered head.
Jiang Ziya hurriedly made his way over. He hesitated for a moment, taking in the furrowed brows of the other person, and the fact that there was “no reason for the other person to be here right now.” Thus, for now, he decided it would be better to sneakily follow and observe him.
The other person walked back and forth along the path several times, ultimately sitting down on a bench by the roadside, discouraged, with a puzzled expression clearly displayed, as if there were something undecipherable no matter how it was approached.
Seeing that, Jiang Ziya knew that there was probably nothing more to see. At first, he had thought he could stealthily find out some of the other person’s secrets.
Jiang Ziya bought a drink and walked in front of the other person, who actually didn’t look up, still deep in thought, not at all aware of Jiang Ziya’s presence. So out of it.
Jiang Ziya took the cold drink and plastered it against the other person’s face, making him shudder and jump up.
“Ziya-gē, why are you here?” The moment Fu Jun noticed the person in front of him, he was utterly shocked.
“I saw you in the car as I passed by, so I got out.” Jiang Ziya pretended to be puzzled as he asked, “You aren’t in school at this kind of time? Don’t tell me you’re skipping school? You’re just an elementary school kid, and you actually dared to cut class?”
“I’m not cutting class! I’m…” Fu Jun hesitated for a moment but still explained honestly, “I was called in sick.”
Jiang Ziya’s smile wasn’t quite a smile as he looked at him. Just how does he even look like he’s sick? Just now, he even walked back and forth along this path so many times. Don’t tell me sick people need more exercise?
Fu Jun’s face flushed and he muttered, “Taiyi called it in. I’m really not cutting class.”
Jiang Ziya said unhappily, “The boss has always been haphazard. If you follow his steps, you won’t even need to go to school three days a week. You’ll just need to go help the boss, who’ll be lazing in bed, and man the shop every morning.”
“I know!” Speaking of Fu Taiyi, Fu Jun truly grew angry. “Ziya-gē, you don’t know what happened. When I told Taiyi to call in my absence, he actually happily said, ‘You finally learned to occasionally skip school. That’s great. Don’t be such an old fashioned student.’ I’m so angry!”
What a terrible father, leading his kid astray! Jiang Ziya didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Boss, luckily for you, your son is an obedient kid, or else he’d really become a bad student!
Fu Jun had always been an obedient kid; that was why Jiang Ziya didn’t believe he would skip school for no reason. Therefore, he had followed behind him without a word earlier, wanting to see if he could learn the secret behind the Fu father and son.
“Xiao Jun, why in the world did you have the boss call in sick for you?”
Fu Jun didn’t seem to intend to hide it and straightforwardly said, “I just wanted to come find Peilun. He disappeared and still can’t be found even now. I thought I’d search along the path from school to his home several times. I might be able to find a clue.”
Jiang Ziya asked meaningfully, “How about I search with you? I might be able to see something you haven’t noticed.”
Hearing that, Fu Jun hesitated momentarily. However, when he lifted his head and looked at Jiang Ziya’s face, his eyes immediately lit up and he nodded. “Okay.”
He didn’t know whether he was mistaken, but Jiang Ziya felt that when Fu Jun had looked over, what he had zeroed in on at that moment was his left eye.
Both with ulterior motives, the two of them began the endeavor of walking a single path nine times. Unfortunately, they still didn’t discover anything. In fact, Jiang Ziya had followed him and walked it several times already earlier. He hadn’t discovered anything strange at all…
Although that wasn’t quite right either. He should say that he just hadn’t discovered anything stranger than what he usually saw.
Under the street lights, a completely blue entity kept jumping through a hole in the ground, and then falling out from a hole above it, then falling back through the hole in the ground.
In front of a display window, a bunch of sphere shaped entities resembling green algae floated in midair, occasionally thumping against the clear window.
These couldn’t be called normal things, but Jiang Ziya normally saw them all the time, so they could be considered a sort of “normal.”
After walking another round, Fu Jun sat back on the bench, discouraged.
“Ziya-gē, let’s stop. I don’t think we can find any clues.”
Jiang Ziya sat down as well. “Could it be a kidnapping? Has there been a phone call for ransom from a kidnapper?” If it was something like that, then his eye wouldn’t be of any use.
Fu Jun felt doubtful too and said, “I asked Xie-māma, but there hasn’t been any news. Besides, Peilun’s family isn’t wealthy. He shouldn’t have been kidnapped for ransom?”
Having said that, he grew even more worried. He shared a glance with Jiang Ziya. Both saw the unease in each other’s eyes.
Xie Peilun was an obedient elementary school kid. It couldn’t be that he had run away from home. If he hadn’t been kidnapped for ransom, then it could only be for something worse…
Thinking of that, Fu Jun’s face fell. His personality was mature, so he had never had much to talk about with his classmates in the first place. Xie Peilun was the only one he was close with. They’d been walking to school and going home together for over a year. When he considered how the other person might have already suffered misfortune, his heart felt heavy.
“Let’s search again.” Going by Fu Jun’s expression, Jiang Ziya felt they should walk around few more times. They might be able to find a clue during one of those times.
However, Fu Jun answered, “It’s no use. I walked around so many times already. I haven’t discovered anything.”
Hearing that, Jiang Ziya recalled how today wasn’t the first day Fu Jun and Fu Taiyi had started searching. It was likely that he really had walked this path countless times already, yet still had nothing to show for it. Do we have to give up?
But Fu Jun didn’t have the intention to leave. Jiang Ziya thought that he probably didn’t want to give up either, yet he understood that what he was doing was useless…
“Come to think of it, do you two only take this path to school? Have you ever taken a different route, like a shortcut?”
Fu Jun paused, brows furrowing as he considered it.
“There is a shortcut through an alley, but we’ve only taken it once a long time ago. I told him not to go that way, and later on, we never took it again.”
“Let’s go take a look,” Jiang Ziya suggested. “It won’t take too long anyway.”
Fu Jun didn’t think it over much before he nodded and led the way. Right now, he didn’t want to give up, yet there was nothing much he could do. Being able to do something was good.
The alley wasn’t too far away. They only had to turn at the ends of two roads to reach it.
Jiang Ziya had originally thought it would be a dark alley, which was why Fu Jun would advise Xie Peilun not to go this way. However, it actually wasn’t like that at all. This alley was very bright, and you could hear people chattering around you. It wasn’t remote or dreary at all.
Why isn’t Fu Jun willing to take this shortcut?
Jiang Ziya looked toward Fu Jun, who lifted his head and seemed to understand his puzzlement. He suddenly extended his hand to gesture at the wall by the alley’s entrance.
“There’s an ancient pathway there. I’m unable to get rid of it. Even though it’s unlikely to activate, it’s still better to avoid it if possible.”
Jiang Ziya was stunned, unable to respond at all.
“Ziya-gē, do you see it?” Fu Jun asked curiously, “You should be able to see it, right?”
Jiang Ziya stared as he answered, “You mean that red lotus flower drawn on the stone by the corner of the wall over there?”
He wasn’t familiar with flowers, but lotuses were easy to distinguish. That lotus looked just like a blooming lotus seat that could be seen in temples.
“As expected of Ziya-gē.” Fu Jun praised, “You could even distinguish the type of flower.”
Only then was Jiang Ziya able to react, feeling extremely conflicted. It seemed like the Fu father and son no longer planned to keep him in the dark. Since that was the case, he should have directly asked his questions that day in the hospital.
“Xiao Jun…” Jiang Ziya took in a deep breath and asked, “Just who are you and the boss?”
“We are Jiu Ge,” Fu Jun answered as if it were a matter of fact.
“…Isn’t that the name of the bookstore?”
“Taiyi was the one who used it directly as the name of the bookstore.” Fu Jun complained, “I even told him it wasn’t a good idea. What if someone earnest figured it out? But he just wouldn’t listen.”
So you mean I’m not an earnest person, huh? Jiang Ziya felt like he was choking and couldn’t speak.
“Go back and look up ‘Jiu Ge.’” Fu Jun hesitated and added on, “But don’t believe too much of it. It’s just antonomasia for us.”
You want me to look it up myself, yet you tell me not to believe it. Then, is looking it up of any use? And what do you mean by antonomasia?
Seeing Jiang Ziya’s “are you kidding me” expression, Fu Jun said, troubled, “I really don’t know how to explain it!”
“… Just tell me one thing.”
Fu Jun hesitated but nodded. “Okay.”
“Are you and the boss human?” Jiang Ziya asked awkwardly.
These words were making it sound like he was calling them inhuman. He felt awkward the moment he spoke them, but he really couldn’t leave it a mystery. The two girls at home were already giving him a huge headache. If even his work was dominated by non-humans, he really wouldn’t know how to deal with it.
“Of course!” Fu Jun said with conviction, “Ziya-gē, you’re thinking too much. Taiyi and I can run a bookstore and go to school. How’s that not human?”
My family’s Jiang Jiang might even go to kindergarten in the future! Jiang Ziya did his best to squash this retort.
“Anyway, Taiyi and I won’t harm you!” Fu Jun looked at Jiang Ziya and solemnly said, “It’s like what Taiyi said before. We know your father, so we’re just helping him look after you and Jiang Yu-jiě. Don’t be scared.”
Jiang Ziya’s expression was rather perplexed. We?
Unfortunately, Fu Jun didn’t seem to realize he had let it slip. He continued, “We know that you have the truth-seeing eye and have been helping you keep it under wraps. Ziya-gē, don’t tell anyone about it in the future either, or you might attract trouble!”
“Just what is the big deal with this eye? Why is it that revealing it would attract trouble?”
Jiang Ziya couldn’t help asking. Even Yu Shu had said the same. But isn’t it just that this eye can see a lot of random stuff?
What truth-seeing eye? Calling it the illusory-seeing eye would be fit current conditions more!
Fu Jun tilted his head and said, “I don’t understand it too well either. Taiyi knows more. He said that your mom also had this kind of eye, but that it wasn’t as strong as yours.”
Jiang Ziya froze. Even his mother was involved. Although Yu Shu had said that these kinds of abilities were all hereditary, he hadn’t given it much thought. So it was my mother who passed this left eye to me?
“Help me take a look at this alley for now, Ziya-gē.” Fu Jun said worriedly, “Even if Peilun really had taken this road, he shouldn’t have gotten into any trouble. That pathway is already so old. I don’t think it can even be activated. How would it make Peilun disappear?”
Hearing that, Jiang Ziya returned to his senses. No matter what had happened in the past, the most important matter right now was finding the missing child before doing anything else.
They walked into the alley. At first, they approached with trepidation, but the alley wasn’t long. Even though they had walked and stopped and walked and stopped, and they had even stopped to observe the spider webs on the wall, it still only took ten minutes for them to reach the end of the alley.
Of course, nothing happened.
Fu Jun was devastated.
“Let’s look again!” Jiang Ziya consoled him, “We might find a clue soon.”
These were just words of comfort. Jiang Ziya himself knew that there wasn’t a chance of finding anything anymore. The alley was so short, and there weren’t a lot of obstructions. Just walking through once meant that they’d have discovered everything that could be discovered. They weren’t a forensic team who could find fingerprints, traces of blood, or strands of hair.
“Ziya-gē.” Fu Jun braced himself and said, “Can you go in with me?”
“Go in where?” Jiang Ziya asked in confusion.
Fu Jun stayed silent for a long while. He abruptly changed his mind and said, “Forget it. I’ll go by myself—”
“Okay!” Jiang Ziya agreed in one breath.
He suddenly understood where Fu Jun wanted to go.
The lotus flower on the stone was a pathway.
Jiang Ziya’s answer was to the point, yet Fu Jun, who had made the request, had changed his mind. He didn’t know who had left that pathway, or why the pathway had been left. If they barged in rashly, who knew what would happen? For him to ask Ziya-gē to accompany him in to search for someone who had nothing to do with him would feel like he was tricking him.
The ringtone of a cell phone interrupted Fu Jun. He frowned as he pulled out his cell phone. He looked at the number on the screen. Xie Peilun’s mother was calling.
He felt a bit uneasy. Don’t tell me it’s bad news… No, no it won’t be. It might be good news!
Fu Jun braced himself and took the call. He said, while feeling apprehensive, “Xie-māma, this is Xiao Jun.”
“Xiao Jun, I heard that you’re sick. Are you okay?”
Hearing that, Fu Jun figured that he probably wasn’t going to receive good or bad news. “Xie-māma, I’m okay. Has Peilun come home?”
“Not yet.” A choked sound came from the other end of the line. There was a long silence before a soft voice said, “Sorry, it’s just that I heard the teacher say that you’re sick, so I called to see if you’re okay. Peilun will come home soon. Then, you can go to school together again, okay?”
“Okay.” Fu Jun’s heart was heavy.
He’d gone over to Peilun’s place several times. Sometimes, when Taiyi wasn’t home and told him to take care of dinner on his own, and Peilun found out on their walk home, Peilun would often forcefully drag him over to his place to eat dinner.
Xie-māma was always super friendly. At dinner time, she would even heap food in his bowl all the time.
“What is it?” Jiang Ziya asked worriedly, “Has there been news?”
“No.” Fu Jun’s head drooped as he said, “Ziya-gē, can you go in with me? Taiyi isn’t willing to interfere with the affairs of normal people. He won’t go save Peilun with me.”
Normal people… Jiang Ziya ignored the strange word choice and nodded. “No problem, let’s go. The longer we take, the more dangerous it’ll be for him, right?”
Fu Jun lifted his head and said seriously, “Ziya-gē, if you head in with me, I’ll owe you one.”
“Don’t joke around.” Jiang Ziya rubbed the head of this mature kid. He pretended to be unhappy and said, “You won’t owe me anything. If you want to owe me one, then I won’t head in with you.”
Hearing that, Fu Jun said anxiously, “Ziya-gē, I’m not making things up. This is a serious oath. It has power behind it!”
“It’s an invitation, right?”
Fu Jun froze. Then, he nodded in understanding and said, “Lu Yang-gē told you, right? I thought he wasn’t going to explain these things to you! So he still did? He even told you about something as specific as invitations.”
“Yeah,” Jiang Ziya agreed vaguely.
To sum it up, Lu Yang hadn’t told him the whole story. The two little girls at home, Yu Shu, House Keeper, and even the guy who had kidnapped Lu Yang last time had all played a part!
“Ziya-gē, you should accept my invitation.”
Jiang Ziya frowned and said, “I said it’s unnecessary. You and the boss have helped me a lot. If we’re really talking about owing favors, I’d be the one owing you guys.”
“No matter what, you should accept it.” Fu Jun was adamant.
Jiang Ziya thought it weird. Why do I have to accept? I won’t ever ask Fu Jun to return the favor, so why even bother?
Seeing that he was unwilling to accept, Fu Jun could only explain, “If I owe you, it’ll mean that the entirety of Jiu Ge owes you. You can seek anyone out for the debt.”
The entirety of Jiu Ge? Jiang Ziya thought it even weirder.
Are there people other than the boss and Xiao Jun?
“Ziya-gē, accept it.” Fu Jun said it again, “If you head in with me, I’ll owe you one.”
As he spoke, he extended his pinky, intending to hook pinkies with Jiang Ziya to seal the promise. This action was just like a true child’s.
However, Jiang Ziya saw that Fu Jun’s pinky glowed with a faint shimmer. He hesitated before he also extended his pinky to hook the other person’s finger. For a university student, this action was so childish that it’d make people blush.
“Okay, I accept.”
The shimmer around the pinky suddenly burst into brightness, the pinpoints of light scattering across their large and small hands, sinking into their flesh, disappearing without a trace.
Only then did Jiang Ziya remember that Lu Yang had told him not to accept any invitations.
Yet in just a few short days, he had already accepted two.