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 3—The Lotus Dimension—translated by lucathia (proofread by Trespasserby)
Jiang Ziya kept his eyes wide, taking in Fu Jun’s every movement. The latter knelt down in front of the stone, delicately touching the blooming lotus seat.
The lotus flower was drawn in great detail—deep pink petals, tender green leaves, and delicate golden lines tracing the edges—making it appear rather fancy, but unfortunately, it seemed quite aged, with mottled spots in many locations.
First, Fu Jun touched the picture of the blooming lotus seat, and then he knocked on the stone. Jiang Ziya almost didn’t dare to blink his eyes. This was a rare chance to observe. He was afraid he would miss a single detail and still not understand how to enter a “barrier dimension” in the future—even though it was better not to have to enter those kinds of places.
After touching the lotus and the stone, there were still no changes. Fu Jun frowned. He pressed his index finger against his lips, forming a shushing gesture, and then slowly moved his finger away from his lips, pointing it at the stone. Jiang Ziya clearly saw the finger glow faintly again.
“In the name of the Lord of the East, Dong Jun, I command thee—open!”
Hearing such familiar words—the words that had come out of his phone to save Lu Yang and him last time had been about the same as these—made Jiang Ziya hold his breath. He almost didn’t dare to move, afraid to interrupt Fu Jun’s actions.
“The Lord of the East, Dong Jun, commands thee, open!”
After shouting it a few times and receiving absolutely no response, Fu Jun lowered his finger in frustration, face reddening a bit. He nearly didn’t dare to lift his head to face Jiang Ziya.
Seeing that, Jiang Ziya coughed lightly. “Maybe it can’t be used anymore. Then, it can’t be possible that your classmate disappeared here.”
Hearing that, Fu Jun actually felt even more despondent. If his friend hadn’t met something like this, then he couldn’t help at all and could only quietly wait for an update. However, two days had passed without any news. That in itself was already bad news.
Fu Jun said dejectedly, “Let’s go then. Taiyi has something to do this afternoon and was going to close the store. But now that I’m heading back, I can help him look after the store.”
Although Jiang Ziya thought it was too bad that he hadn’t been able to see how to enter a barrier dimension today, he didn’t plan to ask Fu Jun. Now wasn’t the time. Compared to his matters, it was more worrisome that a child they knew might have run into trouble. So, he merely looked toward the lotus with regret yet discovered that the leaves below the flower had actually dried up and turned brown…
“Ziya-gē?” Fu Jun asked, confused, “Aren’t you coming?”
“Why have the leaves withered?” Jiang Ziya mumbled in confusion yet discovered that even the petals were beginning to fall off one by one.
Fu Jun’s eyes widened. He stared at the changes in their surroundings. A biting wind blew over, bringing with it a hint of a chill, as well as a single, withered leaf from who-knows-where. The original summer day had turned into an autumn one.
The entire lotus actually withered. Jiang Ziya couldn’t figure it out, so he could only turn his head to say that. However, he saw Fu Jun staring at him with a very strange expression.
“What?” He asked in incomprehension.
You’re still asking what… Fu Jun was speechless. Only now did he understand why both Fu Taiyi and Lu Yang had chosen to keep Jiang Ziya in the dark. He obviously could see, so it was pointless not to tell him about the world’s other aspect!
However, Fu Jun understood now. While this fellow had only looked at an ancient pathway, he had activated it, falling into a barrier dimension unknowingly. Perhaps it would be better for him to know less.
“We can’t leave anymore,” Fu Jun said helplessly.
“Why not?” Jiang Ziya asked, confused.
“Ziya-gē, do you hear anything?”
Jiang Ziya immediately focused on listening. He did so for awhile but actually didn’t hear a single sound. He was a bit let down. Is it because only my left eye is problematic, so I can’t hear it?
“I don’t hear a single sound.”
Fu Jun nodded and said, “Cars, people, there are none of those sounds.”
When Fu Jun said that, Jiang Ziya suddenly realized something was off. Earlier when they entered the alley, there were lots of sounds. Outside had been the noise of cars, and then they could also hear various sounds coming from the houses along the two sides of the alley. There was talking, music, and even children crying.
Yet, it was silent now.
Once he realized that, he abruptly began panicking. He resided in the city. Since when is it ever this silent? Even at midnight, there would be the occasional sound of a car passing by, yet there wasn’t a single sound right now. It was like he was wearing ear plugs, and all the noise was blocked. However, he knew that that was definitely untrue. He could still hear his own breathing and even the sound of his heartbeat…
When all sound is gone, a heartbeat’s pulse can actually sound this conspicuous. He couldn’t help counting it beat by beat, worrying whether the thumping would suddenly stop. But the more he thought that way, the more worried he got, and the faster his heart beat, heavier and heavier, making him start to hyperventilate…
“What exactly is going on?” Jiang Ziya couldn’t help asking. If he didn’t break the silence now, he felt he wouldn’t be able to hold back a scream.
“We’ve already entered a barrier dimension. Even though many barrier dimensions resemble the real world, they often lack fine details. The easiest difference to spot is the sound.”
Fu Jun explained in detail. That was also what Fu Taiyi wanted. Since Jiang Ziya had already taken a step into the inner world, then he could no longer remain oblivious. It was even more dangerous for someone like Jiang Ziya who possessed the truth-seeing eye to only have partial understanding.
Jiang Ziya nodded, suddenly recalling what had happened when his brother-in-law had been trapped in his office the previous night. He abruptly realized that when the fire had started, there had been no “heat,” and that was how he had determined that something was off.
“Why do these barrier dimensions exist?” Jiang Ziya really couldn’t understand it. It was so random that he had entered a barrier dimension just by looking at a lotus flower. Seriously? Normally, don’t you have to be struck by lightning or hit by a car, so you’d die before going to a parallel world?
“Most are created by people, but there are some super, super ancient barrier dimensions that we don’t know the origin of. It’s hard to believe that they might be created by humans.”
After saying so, Fu Jun glanced repeatedly at the alley and said, “Ziya-gē, I’ll explain it in more detail later. Can we go and find Peilun first right now?”
Jiang Ziya almost wanted to scold himself. How could I have forgotten the most important thing? He quickly said, “Of course, let’s go.”
The two of them walked into the alley again. This time, they were 120% alert.
“Is there anything I should pay particular attention to?” Jiang Ziya asked as he looked all around them.
Fu Jun had great expectations for Jiang Ziya’s left eye now. “Look at everything. Tell me if you feel there’s anything off at all, no matter if it’s actually anything!”
They didn’t walk for long. Jiang Ziya didn’t need to speak for both of them to feel that something was wrong.
An old beggar sat at the corner of the wall, begging.
A bamboo mat was spread over the ground. The old man’s clothing was in tatters, and he had a large bowl in front of him, as well as a bamboo stick leaning against the wall behind him.
A single glance told both of them that something was iffy. Without even taking into consideration that this was a barrier dimension, so normal people wouldn’t appear inside of it, even the clothes the old beggar wore was strange. It wasn’t modern clothing. Rather, it looked like clothing a member of the beggar crew would wear in a period drama.
Jiang Ziya looked toward Fu Jun. Even though relying on an elementary school kid embarrassed him, it was the truth that this elementary school kid knew how to deal with the situation before them better than he did.
Fu Jun frowned a bit. “I don’t know either.” He honestly said, “Ziya-gē, don’t think too highly of me. I’m just a kid. I couldn’t even open the barrier dimension just now. I’m not even at your level!”
“But you saved me before.” Jiang Ziya had even lamented over how the Fu father and son’s single utterance had been more powerful than Lu Yang’s struggling. Wanting him to believe that Fu Jun was just a normal elementary school kid now really had no credibility behind it.
“That was Taiyi.” Fu Jun honestly admitted, “I only ‘gave’ you a hint so that you’d definitely take my call then.”
Hearing that, Jiang Ziya still found it hard to believe that the boss, who was always so silly, was his true savior. He would rather believe that an elementary school kid had saved him!
Jiang Ziya took a deep breath and said, “Then, you should get behind me. If there’s anything you need me to do, tell me.”
Since he now knew that Fu Jun was helpless too, then Jiang Ziya felt that he had the responsibility to protect the kid.
Fu Jun nodded, but he didn’t hide behind him. He walked to Jiang Ziya’s side and took his hand, just like an obedient kid.
Jiang Ziya gripped Fu Jun’s hand tightly. The two of them walked toward the beggar in trepidation.
Once they stood before him, Jiang Ziya did his best to use his left eye to look at him, wishing to figure out once and for all if he was human or some other thing.
“Ziya-gē.” Fu Jun lowered his voice to say, “This is his barrier dimension. You won’t see through anything.”
“Huh?” Jiang Ziya said strangely, “But I see that his skin is pallid. It doesn’t look quite right.”
Fu Jun was silent for a moment before he said, “Then, it might be a figment he left behind, while the actual person died a long time ago.”
Hearing that he was dead made Jiang Ziya pale.
So this time, it really is a ghost?
Jiang Ziya heard himself swallowing. I still have to face it, head on!
“M-Mister, have you seen an elementary school student pass through here?”
The old beggar used clouded eyes to glance at them vacantly. Then, he bowed his head and returned to staring at the bowl. He was just like a delirious old person, unable to form an ordinary response.
“In the name of the Lord of the East, Dong Jun, I command thee to answer!” Fu Jun shouted.
The old beggar shuddered and raised his head to look at Fu Jun, his gaze still clouded. Then, he lowered his head to look at the bowl again.
“Taiyi lied to me!” Fu Jun vehemently bit out, “He said that my abilities are on par with his! Why are my words useless?”
Now that Fu Jun’s attempt had failed, Jiang Ziya could only see if his left eye would be of any use.
He observed the old man even more carefully. The more he looked, the more pallid he thought the other’s skin was. Even his pupils carried a thread of sickly gray, a color that wouldn’t appear on a living being. Thankfully, this was an old guy with lots of age spots and wrinkles. He was also dirty, so even though his skin and eyes were grayish-white, it was not too alarming. If this were a young man or woman, he really might not have the courage to carefully observe this “ghost.”
“Have you seen Xie Peilun or not?” Fu Jun asked again, specifically mentioning his name. Sometimes, names could put things in motion. This was a tidbit that Fu Taiyi had taught him.
The old man still looked at him vacantly. Fu Jun started growing vexed. He felt like he was being made fun of by this guy who had passed away who knew how long ago. This place might not even have anything to do with Peilun’s disappearance.
Thinking that way actually made a lot more sense. He couldn’t even open the barrier dimension, so how could Xie Peilun stumble inside for no reason? It wasn’t like he was Ziya-gē!
“Let’s go, Ziya-gē. I don’t think we can find Peilun here.”
Jiang Ziya could detect the heavy disappointment in Fu Jun’s tone. He couldn’t stop himself from waving away the other’s intent to give up. He continued to observe the old man, yet the other didn’t make any other movements. He just kept staring at his bowl… Wait!
Staring at his bowl?
Jiang Ziya quickly looked at the large bowl, suddenly discovering that the bowl actually had a lotus flower design on it. It was exactly the same as the lotus flower on the stone outside!
The bowl wasn’t empty either. It had various things in it, but they weren’t the coins or cash one might expect. It was a mound of copper coins, several gold bars and silver pieces, women’s jewelry, and even some papers. Words like, “Wanbao Banking House,” “One hundred taels exactly” and the like were written on them.
Jiang Ziya hesitated before he fished out his wallet. He placed a one thousand yuan bill in the bowl and asked softly, “Mister, have you seen a boy around the age of the one next to me? He wears a pair of glasses, and he looks like a very obedient child.”
The old man lifted his head. A trace of vigor actually appeared in his clouded eyes. He mumbled, “A few days ago, a child was chased by illusory things and ran for a long time. After he exhausted himself, he was actually taken away by someone.”
“He was taken away by someone?” Fu Jun hurriedly asked, “By what kind of person?”
The old man didn’t say anything more. Jiang Ziya thought it over and put in another one thousand yuan. As expected, they received an answer again.
“A group of people bringing around demons has been capturing people all over the city. No idea what evil they’re up to.”
Fu Jun quickly asked, “Then, do you know where they’ve taken the people?”
“Toward the east.”
During this time, Jiang Ziya was responsible for putting in more money. Fortunately, the boss had given him money, or else with his usual habit of only bringing around a thousand or two on him, he really wouldn’t have enough money to pay to ask the questions.
“Where in the east?”
“Toward the east.”
After spending several thousand, they still only received the answer “toward the east.” When Jiang Ziya had paid so much that he was about vomit up blood, Fu Jun finally gave up.
“I think we won’t get anything else.” He was heavily disappointed as he said, “Toward the east is way too vague. We can’t find Peilun like that.”
“We might be able to find him. Aren’t there often stories that say that gods teach people to walk that way to meet good luck?” Jiang Ziya consoled him.
He really hoped they could find him. Otherwise, he’d feel like they had been cheated.
“Let’s go.” Fu Jun frowned and said, “If someone’s going around to capture people, Taiyi might be willing to intervene. Let’s go find him.”
Why isn’t the boss willing to help search for him? Jiang Ziya felt a bit puzzled. But he’d be able to see Fu Taiyi soon, so he wasn’t in a hurry to ask.
Before leaving, Jiang Ziya thought about it and returned to place another thousand in the bowl as a show of gratitude. Only then did he catch up with Fu Jun’s strides.
“You two should be careful, too.”
They had asked no questions, yet behind them came the old man’s warning.
“You two are both people they want to capture.”
Both Jiang Ziya and Fu Jun froze. They turned their heads to look, but where was there even an old beggar by the wall? Other than he and Fu Jun, there was no one else in the alley.
Suddenly, giggling reached his ears, followed by the swooshing sound of a passing car in the distance. Indistinct talking also came from the other side of the wall.
Fu Jun didn’t have to tell him for Jiang Ziya to understand that they had left the “barrier dimension.”
He didn’t know how he had entered it. He didn’t know how he had left it. No wonder Lu Yang often said that he got trapped. Again.
Jiang Ziya felt that he was trapped, too. Ever since he had returned home and seen Xiao Xue, he had become trapped by this familiar yet strange world.